An African American person wearing a black face mask raises a white towel in the air
Cedric Jackson (left) and Dante King address the crowd in front of City Hall during an Oct. 2, 2020 rally held by Black city workers. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara

A former city employee who worked on diversity, inclusion, and workforce equity is on track to receive more than $560,000 from the city, after they sued for discrimination and retaliation. 

Dante King, who is Black and uses they/them pronouns, alleged in a September, 2022, civil lawsuit that the city discriminated against them, and retaliated by rescinding a promotion after King reported the discrimination.

In the September filing, King said that they suffered, and continue to suffer, financial losses as well as emotional distress that will likely incur medical expenses.  

The city denied all of King’s allegations in its response filing in early January, and said it took care to “prevent and promptly correct any discrimination or harassment.” The filing accused King of failing to take advantage of “preventative or corrective procedures” provided by the city, or “take other steps to avoid harm.” 

But the city is paying King a sizable settlement nonetheless. 

King alleged that, in 2018, while they were an employee of the Department of Human Resources, they were paid less than a white counterpart doing the same work, then were passed over for a promotion in favor of a less experienced candidate. King, who worked on bias training for DHR, filed a complaint with state and federal worker discrimination agencies in 2019.  

Then, the lawsuit alleges, King was offered a job as the Department of Public Health’s Director of Workforce Equity in 2020. They were offered a pay raise to $186,550 that was later rescinded, King said, as retaliation for the 2019 complaint. 

At the time, King was working as the SFMTA’s Leader of Cultural Change, Equity, Employee Experience and Engagement. King continued in that role for a few more months, then took the job with DPH anyway. 

How, exactly, denying King’s pay raise was retaliatory is not explained in the lawsuit. According to King’s filing, they were told that a DPH employee offered King the raise without authorization, and that the new job at DPH was technically a demotion in the city employment hierarchy. 

This is not the first time that King has called the city out for retaliation. In 2020, King spoke out publicly after a letter to Chief Bill Scott about anti-Black sentiments within SFPD culture was leaked. This letter, King said, led SFMTA head Jeffrey Tumlin to rescind King’s job offer as the director of the SFMTA’s Race, Equity and Inclusion Division.

King has also filed other complaints to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Some were made on their own behalf, during their years working for the city, and others were made through King’s work on the Black Employee Alliance, which found that Black SFMTA workers were more likely to face harsh discipline than non-Black counterparts. 

The City Attorney’s office, in its January filing, “denies that [King] has been injured or has suffered any damages, and further denies that [King] is entitled to any relief requested … or to any relief in any amount or of any kind whatsoever.” 

In its outlined defenses, the City Attorney claimed that there was no discrimination involved. “Any and all employment actions taken … were not based on any illegal consideration,” the filing read, “but rather were based on one or more legitimate, sufficient, nondiscriminatory reasons.” 

King and his attorney declined to comment for this story. 

Jen Kwart, the City Attorney’s spokesperson, told Mission Local, “We believe the proposed settlement is an appropriate resolution, given the inherent costs of continued litigation.” 

The matter will be up for final passage by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 7. 

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. Dante king is an incredible human, activist, teacher and anti racist. He has exposed the extent of anti-black bias of SFPD in so many ways with his work. He deserves this victory, and if you have any doubts, watch his SF police commission testimony.

  2. Who cares, SF has 14 billion dollars every year to waste. They sure don’t waste it fixing streets and potholes.

  3. People always have commentary about things they know nothing about..
    U shouldn’t comment when u don’t know the intricacies of the situation.. Think about what your writing, they denied everything he said, yet are paying him a settlement, duh, means THEY ARE GUILTY..
    Please stop spreading lies..

    1. I’ve been using “they/them” pronouns for a while now. But I’m beginning to realize they aren’t the solution I thought they were. More confusion than inclusion.

  4. Another professional victim. San Francisco has no shortage of them, yet taxpayers are on the hook. Here’s another guy who won’t need to work till he sights his next opportunity for a discrimination lawsuit.

    1. You are mistaken – taxpayers are on the hook because SF’s citizens allow its government to intentionally discriminate against its employees: lying to employees about promotions, bait and switching them on internal solutions to disputes, perks for its incompetent “yes” men, women and others – while bullying the actual employees who get the work done and even undercutting the business of the city to carry out personal vendettas against those employees.

      In nearly all of those instances, the City Attorney will come in to prop up the discriminators at the top of the City department pyramids – the City Attorney has never seen discrimination against its employees as a problem and has maintained it as the default management style for the heads of the City departments. Ask the non-attorney employees at the City Attorney’s office (the attorneys will lie to protect their “at will” jobs) how they run their office – then, you’ll know what’s up.

      In SF, no cases are settled by the City Attorney like this unless SF is really, really, really in the wrong and is a shoe-in for a jury trial defeat.

      In any cases in which there’s a sliver of a defense the plaintiff with a 6-7 figure case tends to get a $10k offer at court mandated mediation the week before the trial date.

    2. Dante has filed and won discrimination lawsuits from prior employers. This is not the first big pay day, but it seems they have the MO for shaking the money tree.

      The article seems to also forget…. Dante was charged by the ethics commission and paid a fine for using their City relationships, resources and paid time to build his own private consulting company.

      1. Absolutely, untrue. The City and County of San Francisco attempted to malign Dante’s character, and there was no willful admission of guilt. You need to read the Ethics Commission’s documents, which are posted on their website instead of spreading untruths (lies).

  5. My tax dollars hard at work. Dante King was already earning $126k at SFMTA as Leader of DEI. A SF schoolteacher averages $70k. A bus driver earns around $60k. Those are far more valuable positions delivering real services.