Alison L. Tsao

Managing Partner | San Francisco, San Francisco
(415) 981-3233
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CLAY Award, 2015

Immigrated from Hong Kong to U.S. with family in 1980

Fluent in Cantonese

Most Proud Of: Putting herself through college and law school

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About Alison

Effective, creative, and equally adept at defending employers ranging from mom-and-pop sole proprietors to public entity employers and Fortune 100 companies, Alison L. Tsao resolves disputes involving all forms of discrimination and harassment, wrongful termination, unfair competition and employment-related tort claims.  

She also has more than a decade of experience successfully defending management in wage and hour class actions, and remains in the forefront of this evolving area by advancing new legal theories.  Tsao is one of a few California attorneys who has taken this type of complex case all the way to trial and through various levels of appeals.  Tsao is on the trial and appellate team that secured the seminal California Supreme Court decision in Duran v. U.S. Bank, 59 Cal.4th 1 (2014), which helped shape class certification and trial management principles in exemption cases, particularly in the areas of statistical sampling and representative testimony.

Tsao successfully represents employers before administrative agencies, California state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate levels, and in arbitrations.  She aggressively pursues early resolution on favorable terms whenever possible, whether through ADR or by dispositive motions, and is known for her tough negotiation skills. 

In addition, Tsao regularly provides training and advice to clients in the areas of risk management and litigation avoidance, keeping them informed of changing laws and best practices in the challenging California legal climate.

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University of California, Hastings College of the Law, J.D., magna cum laude, 1998   

  • Order of the Coif, Thurston Society, 1998
  • Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Associate Editor, 1997

University of California, Berkeley, B.A., Political Science, with honors, 1995

Written Opinions

Alila-Katita v. U.S. Bank, 2016 WL 4992464 (N.D. Cal. 2016)

Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass'n, 59 Cal. 4th 1 (2014)

Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass’n (“Duran II”), 19 Cal.App.5th 630 (2018)

Trahan v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 2015 WL 75139 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 6, 2015)

Wells v. Board of Trustees, 2006 U.S. Dist. Lexis Unpub. 68260 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 7, 2006)

Wells v. Board of Trustees of California State University, 393 F.Supp.2d 990 (N.D. Cal. 2005)

  • Public employer’s immunity and right to terminate employee based on contract for specified term


“Employment Trials – Examining Witnesses,” Alameda County Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Symposium, November 2017

“Mind the Gap: Complying with California’s Fair Pay Act and Wage Equality Act,” California Minority Counsel Program, May 2017

"What is “Fair”? - Complying with California’s Fair Pay Act," CDF Webinar Series, April 2016

"Full-Time Employee vs. Contractor," Hire Smart Seminar hosted by Intuit Inc. and LinkedIn, April 2013

"Wage & Hour Class Actions: What Companies Doing Business in California Need to Know," CDF Webinar Series, September 2012

“Digital Dilemmas: The Price & Perils of e-Discovery,” California Minority Counsel Program, Annual Conference, 2010

“Taking Your Legal Vitamins: Best Practices for California Employers,” Asian American Bar Association of Greater Bay Area, 2008

Professional Affiliations/Leadership/Awards

Received CLAY Award for being recognized as one of the Attorneys of the Year, Class ActionsCalifornia Lawyer, 2015 

California Minority Counsel Program, 2008 - present

  • 2010 Annual Conference Committee Member

Asian American Bar Association, Greater Bay Area, 2005 - present

  • Solo & Small Firms Committee, Co-Chair
  • Women's Committee Member, 2015 - 2016

San Francisco Bar Association

  • Bay Area Minority Summer Clerkship Program Participant, 2010

California Women Lawyers, 2015 - 2016

Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP

  • San Francisco Office Managing Partner since 2007
  • Co-Chair, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Blog Entries

Court Affirms Denial of Class Certification for...

January 19, 2018

“Opportunity to Work” Ordinance Imposes New Burdens...

December 19, 2016

CDF Attorneys Convince Court to Invalidate Use...

February 13, 2012

Federal Court Invalidates Proposition 8's Ban on...

August 5, 2011

New Favorable Interpretation of "Commissions" for Commissioned...

May 23, 2011

Ninth Circuit Court Ruling on Employer's Grooming...

May 8, 2011

Explicit Mutual Wage Agreement Can Defeat Overtime...

February 9, 2011

Employer Must Take Corrective Action to Cure...

December 30, 2010

Non-Union Employees Entitled to Opt-Out Notice Before...

December 27, 2010

Employment Screening Company Has Free Speech Right...

March 29, 2010

Commuting in Employer-Provided Car and "Postliminary" Work...

March 8, 2010

Public Agencies Exempt From Most California Labor...

June 8, 2009

DLSE Confirms That Employers May, Under Some...

December 8, 2008

"Joint Employers" of Staffing Agency Employees Liable...

April 22, 2008

California Legislature Indicates Intent To Clarify Meal...

April 16, 2008

New "Get Tough" Federal Policy on Undocumented...

May 19, 2006

Important Employment Cases Pending Review

May 19, 2006

New Noteworthy Cases for California Employers

May 19, 2006

Important Legislative Developments

May 16, 2006


Our clients can rest assured that our attorneys will protect their time, protect their dime and protect their peace of mind, so they can focus on maintaining productive and rewarding workplaces to remain competitive and successful in their marketplace. CDF - Attorneys you can Trust. Experience you can Trust. Results you can Trust.

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