Thanks for the additional information.
The first avenue to pursue is the procedure set forth in the personnel manual. This will keep human resources happy so that the whole situation can be evaluated.
Now, human resources is one thing, but as a practical matter, District and Regional managers get what they want. The very best results will come from them. This is where good working relationships really pay off. All communications should be positive toward resolution, not adversarial. The latter just won't work. Once the District or Regional management is satisfied that the incident was simply miscommunication in a heated moment, progess toward resolution will happen, not until then.
There are three realistic results here. One: the assistant just goes somewhere else and tries to collect unemployment. For benefits, the issue will be whether the assistant was terminated "for good cause". However, I would recommend to the assistant that this filing be done only after all hope is lost for reinstatement.
A second approach would be to make contact with the district manager to see if you should just report to work anyway following the end of vacation. Maybe, by then, tempers may have calmed. The assistant may ask for an informal meeting between the parties as an effort to resolve the matter.
Should the manager appear to have the backing of the District mgr, it may be better to seek a transfer to another location, if possible.
If the goal is to remain in the position, the assistant mgr has to work within the company system, (keeping in mind that the upper mgt and not human resources will really make the decisions). Bringing an attorney with you, (or mentioning legal assistance), will only put mgt's back against the wall. They would perceive that the relationship is in fact terminated.
In sum, without a written contract or labor agreement in place, your rights are contained in the company's rules and procedures. Even with a union present, it is likely that the assistant would be excluded from help due to the position in "management". So, the assistant's legal position would be "employment at will". This simply means that the employment extends and lasts at the "will" of both the assistant and the company. Either party can terminate the relationship "at will". It is possible that the assistant could win an unemployment claim, but this should be pursued only as a last resort.
I always recommend that anyone asking for information here consult with a local attorney. There is simply no substitute for that.
These situations are usually salvageable, but it will take calm, patience and a willingness to cooperate.
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