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Tim Hortons In Hot Water Again Following Incident Involving Homeless Woman

Two weeks after a Tim Hortons employee in London, Ont. was fired and rehired for giving a child a free Timbit, the company is making headlines again over an incident involving a homeless woman.

A Toronto investment manager apparently bought the pregnant woman breakfast at the doughnut chain’s King and Victoria Sts. location, then was chastised by an employee because the woman stayed in the restaurant to eat. The employee apparently told Teresa Lee the restaurant doesn’t let homeless people eat inside, even if they’re consuming food from the restaurant, because they “make a mess.”

The company released a statement claiming workers at this location were familiar with the woman and claimed she was known for causing disturbances in the past.

“In this specific case the person involved has been in the store previously and has been very disruptive and asked to leave on several occasions. The staff were reacting to that history. Of course the customer could not have known that,” the statement read.

Whether the actions of the employees at this particular restaurant were justified or not, people on the streets downtown Friday were turned off by the move and said the chain’s reputation is suffering.

“I think it’s terrible. I think that if someone actually has the thought to buy a homeless person, a pregnant homeless woman, some food, they should be allowed to eat it without being harassed and kicked out onto the street where they always are,” Austin Wong said.

“I’m a great fan of Tim Hortons, but I’m a little disappointed in the way they’ve handled the situation here,” Tim Grey admits.

“I think it’s awful. Tim Hortons is getting a bad reputation lately,” Jeannie Desroches said.

Perry Maisoneuve of Northern Lights Franchise Consultants said he can understand why the employees had a knee-jerk reaction to this particular patron.

“There’s a prior history with this particular homeless person and as a result of that, you can imagine the staff recognize the woman and they anticipate that something’s gone wrong even if it didn’t happen,” he said.

It’s the latest episode the restaurant chain would probably like to forget. The London, Ont. firing of 27-year-old Nicole Lilliman for giving an 11-month-old child a free Timbit was put down to an “overzealous” manager. Lilliman was rehired at another Tim Hortons shortly after the incident came to light.

Also in the spotlight in recent weeks,  a 1999 case involving an employee accused of stealing money from a Tim Hortons cash register. Charlene Walsh was charged with theft under $5,000 for allegedly taking a toonie from the till. Walsh admitted she took the coin but contends it was a gratuity from a customer and that’s where she kept her tips.

Though the charge was withdrawn, Walsh was furious with how she was treated and sued both Toronto Police and the franchise owner. Her case was recently put over by the Ontario Court of Appeal.