Judging from the tone of some of the comments, it could also affect the boss's reputation, so I don't blame him for handling it the way he is.
Yes, but I do wonder if he's going to put himself out there or just leave the OP out there alone. If May Hug has a chance to speak with an employment lawyer, I'd suggest doing so just to cover herself. It's not right or fair that she should have to, but the reality is the CW and her buddies may be twisting reality on this as they've shown they're capable of doing. Which IMO, is all the more reason for the boss to leave MayHug out of it as much as he can possibly do.
Apparently, it was one of the co-workers friends, mutual former co-worker who made the inneundo that the OP & the boss were an item. While MayHug's post says there was back and forth, it doesn't specify the co-worker made the back & forth. If it was the co-worker, then yes, she can't use the "I was on vacation". But if it was people other than the co-worker, she could use the "I was on vacation & didn't have internet access" line. Or "I was so busy getting ready I didn't have time to read every comment."
I agree the CW's post was unprofessional and a cause for firing. If she participated in the inneundo that the boss was conducting an affair, even more so! Which makes the question of why the boss is requiring MayHug to file a complaint to persuade the CW to resign all the more relevant. The man has the authority to fire this woman, not pressure her to resign. And her behavior certainly merits a firing. Even when it comes to unemployment, he may still be in the clear if it was for something obvious like lack of judgment and insubordination.
I don't want to turn this into a legal thing, but I wonder why her boss is requring her to make a complaint when he could easily take car eo fth situation. HOw wil that play with the rest of MayHug's coworkers? Hopefully, they'll be sensible, but if CW didn't directly make the affair comments, this could really blow up