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A Tim Hortons employee fired Wednesday for giving a free Timbit to the child of a regular customer has been rehired.

Nicole Lilliman, 27, a single mother of four in London, Ont., was reinstated Thursday after intervention by the chain's head office.

In a terse press release, the company blamed an overzealous manager for the firing, which threatened to become a public relations nightmare as the story gained traction in the media Thursday.

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"Unfortunately the action of the manager of this location was not appropriate nor grounds for dismissal. With an apology from management, Ms. Lilliman has been rehired by the franchisee," it states.

"We sincerely apologize to our customers for this unfortunate incident."

Spokeswoman Rachel Douglas said Ms. Lilliman was rehired after the store owner became aware of the incident.

The store apparently had a policy against giving away food, but Ms. Douglas said it wasn't a ground for dismissal and that Ms. Lilliman is receiving an apology from head office.

Ms. Lilliman will now work at another Tim Hortons store, just down the street from where she's been employed for the past three years.

"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," Ms. Douglas said.

No decision has been made in regards to taking action against the manager who fired Ms. Lilliman, Ms. Douglas added.

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"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."

As for the need for a nationwide policy on Timbit freebies, Ms. Douglas said that's yet to be determined. She does point out that, currently, store owners set their own policies and run "their businesses as they choose."

On Wednesday. Ms. Lilliman said she had acted out of the goodness of her heart.

"I have been fired for giving a baby a Timbit," she said.

"It was just out of my heart - she was pointing and going 'ah, ah. . .' I should have gone to my purse and got the change, but it was busy."

Ms. Lilliman, who has worked at the store for three years, said she thought little of the incident since Timbits are often doled out to dogs and children.

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She said the baby was about 11 months old, and she gave her the treat to quiet her, since her mother - a Tims' regular - had been "having a bad day."

"I could see [the dismissal]if it was a sandwich or something," she said. "But it was a Timbit."

She'd forgotten about the Monday-morning incident until she was called into the office Wednesday.

Three managers greeted her, saying she had been caught on video, giving free food to a child.

"They said, 'Remember, Monday you gave out a free Timbit,' " she said. "I had to think, then I was like, 'Oh yeah,' and I smiled because I thought I'd get a warning."

Instead, she was fired for theft.

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Giving food away free is against the rules, said Tim Hortons district manager Nicole Mitchell.

"Employees aren't allowed to give out free products and that's the bottom line," she said. "She gave out free product and it doesn't matter if it is a Timbit or a coffee or a doughnut or 10 sandwiches or what."

The Timbits given to pets, Ms. Mitchell added, are usually "day-old and recycled."

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