After being fired for giving away a Timbit to a baby and hastily reinstated when the doughy dilemma hit the media, single mom Nicole Lilliman says she'll collect her much-needed Tim Hortons paycheque until she can find work elsewhere.
While still anxious to work in a customer service job, the 27-year-old mother of four young children said she fears her career with the iconic Canadian purveyor of coffee and doughnuts has been irreparably harmed — despite a chance to work at a new outlet.
'I pay to flush my toilet. I need this job.'—Nicole Lilliman, Tim Hortons worker
"I will have to leave. I will look for another job," Lilliman said. "I will leave just because nobody's going to like me. It's going to be awkward [going back to work], but I need a cheque in two weeks. I need it. I have to have it."
Lilliman, who said she had aspired to become a supervisor, was fired by what Tim Hortons head office called an overzealous manager after giving away the deep-fried confection — retail value 16 cents — to the infant on Tuesday.
The three-year employee, who makes $9.05 an hour and pays $750 a month in rent, was called into a backroom the next day and made to sign termination papers that read "terminated for giving baby product without paying," she said.
"So I signed it because it's true — I did it."
As she left the store in tears, a stranger handed her $40, saying someone had once done him the same favour when he was fired from a job, Lilliman said.
"I left crying, everybody's staring at me. I was so embarrassed," she said. "Then I went home and called the newspaper."
Tim Hortons spokeswoman Rachel Douglas said Thursday the store apparently had a policy against giving away food, but added it wasn't a ground for dismissal and that Lilliman is receiving an apology from head office.
For now, Lilliman will return to work at another Tim Hortons store close to where she was previously employed.
"She has chosen to go to a different location, just down the street, which is owned by the same franchisee in case she was uncomfortable returning to her current store," Douglas said.
No decision has been made regarding taking action against the manager who fired Lilliman, Douglas added.
"It was an unfortunate incident where a manager acted a bit overzealously. The actions of that manager were not appropriate, nor were they grounds for dismissal."
Lilliman, who said she had a strained relationship with her manager before the incident, said she doesn't want to see her former boss fired but is glad to see Tim Hortons making apologies.
"I want them to feel like that. I'm sorry, you just fired a mother of four over a Timbit," she said.
"Everything would have been fine and dandy. I wouldn't have called anyone. Nothing would have happened if they had just been like, `Nicole, you gave out a Timbit. It's not allowed. Please don't do it again."'
Despite government subsidies, including daycare, Lilliman pays $120 a month in transportation costs to get her children — ages three, five, six and 10 — to their care providers.
Her $750 monthly rent doesn't cover utilities.
"I pay to flush my toilet," she said. "I need this job."
Lilliman said if she ever has the urge to give away a Timbit again, she'll pay the 16 cents out of her own purse.
As for the need for a nationwide policy on Timbit freebies, Douglas said that has yet to be determined, noting that store owners currently set their own policies and run "their businesses as they choose."