Alison L. Tsao

Office Managing Partner
San Francisco Office
(415) 981-3233, ext 1201
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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 two decades of experience successfully defending management in wage and hour class actions and PAGA representative 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.  She was also a key member of 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 cemented that victory when she again defeated class certification after the case was remanded to the trial court, which was affirmed on appeal in a decision that discussed the weaknesses and unreliability of survey methodology in these types of exemption cases, Duran v. U.S. Bank, 19 Cal.App.5th 630 (2018). 

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


"California’s Patchwork of Local Employment Ordinances – a Minefield For the Unwary," Panelist, CDF Webinar Series, February 2021

"Walk the Walk: Initiatives to Diversify the Legal Profession," Moderator, Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, October 2020 

"Sponsors, Influencers, and Career Engineering for Legal Counsel," Panelist, Women, Diversity & Change Summit, June 2019

“Leaders Create More Leaders - Leading and Developing Diverse Leaders In-House and in Law Firms,” Panelist, California Minority Counsel Program (CMCP), August 2018

"Employment Law Basics for the Immigration Practitioner," American Immigration Lawyers Association’s 2018 Annual Conference, June 2018

“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 Actions, California Lawyer, 2015 

Listed, Northern California Super Lawyers®, 2020

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

CDF Labor Law  LLP

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

Blog Entries

Restitution Under the UCL Is Not Damages

June 23, 2021

Independent Contractors Denied Class…

March 22, 2021

Default PAGA Penalties Not…

March 10, 2021

CDF Expands Editorial Board for its…

February 8, 2021

San Francisco Passes Emergency…

July 3, 2020

Bay Area Counties Extend…

May 1, 2020

Bay Area Counties Impose Social…

April 2, 2020

San Francisco OLSE Issues New…

March 24, 2020

Court Affirms Denial of Class…

January 19, 2018

“Opportunity to Work” Ordinance…

December 19, 2016

CDF Attorneys Convince Court to…

February 13, 2012


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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