I am kind of on the fence here with this one......I see both sides of the issue.
However, we don't know what position this woman held there.
Could have been in an office or production position that if left open too long, could really cause work back up. (From the looks and sound of her, she was probably in production or assembly. Could be wrong.) Either way, if she took too long it could have been causing a logistical problem.
When you hire someone, or promote from within there is so much cost involved. So there may not have been a place for her return due to budgetary constraints. Plus I'm sure the company had to pay a huge chunk of that operation through insurance too.
The company was short-sided thinking that this would not become a P.R. nitemare for them!
They should have planned for this.
I would have most assuredly replaced her. But I would have either offered her a pay off, say a year's salary or give her a lesser paying position with the flexibility of allowing her to seek employment elsewhere before this blew up in their faces
We all have to remember that it's a business. It's sole function is to generate profits. Not serve as a charity.