Forced retirement

Don't mess with granny: 65-year-old car saleswoman sues former employer for right to work

Don't mess with granny: Car GM sues former employer for right to work

For some members of the workforce, retirement — or at least semi-retirement — is a status looked forward to at the earliest moment of eligibility. Not so for Carolyn Cross. 

The 65-year-old Houston woman has worked in car dealerships since graduating from high school in 1967, moving up in the ranks from an untrained typist at Southwest Lincoln-Mercury to the general manager of three dealerships — Lone Star Ford, Lone Star Chevrolet and Ron Craft Chevrolet and Cadillac — in her 46 years of service in the automotive industry. 

 Cross, who is known as "Momma" on the sales floor, claims to have made parent company Sonic Automotive nearly a billion dollars over the past decade. 

Cross, who is known as "Momma" on the sales floor, claims to have made North Carolina-based parent company Sonic Automotive nearly a billion dollars over the past decade, improving the sales and service reputations as well as the bottom line of the dealerships under her rule. 

Then, according to a lawsuit filed in Harris County on Monday, the company's management let her go "unexpectedly and without any real explanation" on April 8. 

"At first, Sonic's manager Jeff Dyke told Carolyn it was time for her to 'retire,' and asked her to announce that she had retired," alleges the suit. "In exchange, he offered her money she already was owed and an unenforceable four-year non-competition agreement. Carolyn said she would prefer to work than retire. When she refused to retire, Dyke fired her."

The suit, filed by attorneys Joe Ahmad and Elizabeth Fletcher, details that Sonic has since accused Cross of running "underperforming" dealerships and "harming the company," and has threatened to "pursue all legal actions" if she takes another job in the auto industry prior to April 8, 2014. 

As the grandmother-cum-car saleswoman believes she still has a number of good years left in her, Cross intends to get back to work at a competing dealership today, and requests that Harris County courts recognize that Sonic's "Non-Competition Agreement" holds no bearing on her future employment.