The craziest excuses employees use to call in sick

This list includes “My toe is stuck in the faucet,” “A bird bit me,” and “I’m upset after watching ‘The Hunger Games.'” Oh, boy.


Every year, CareerBuilder enlists the researchers at Harris Interactive to survey hiring managers and HR professionals about the excuses they hear when employees call in sick.

You can’t possibly make this stuff up.

As CareerBuilder is careful to point out:

“In the past year, 30 percent of workers have called in sick when not actually ill, keeping on par with previous years. Sick days, legitimate or otherwise, also become more frequent around the winter holidays, with nearly one-third of employers reporting more employees call in sick during the holiday season.”

Craziest excuses

Take a look at this list CareerBuilder compiled from the survey. You may have heard some of these yourself.

When asked to share the most memorable excuses, employers reported the following real-life examples:

  • Employee’s sobriety tool wouldn’t allow the car to start.
  • Employee forgot he was hired for the job.
  • Employee said her dog was having a nervous breakdown.
  • Employee’s dead grandmother was being exhumed for a police investigation.
  • Employee’s toe was stuck in a faucet.
  • Employee said a bird bit her.
  • Employee was upset after watching “The Hunger Games.”
  • Employee got sick from reading too much.
  • Employee was suffering from a broken heart.
  • Employee’s hair turned orange from dying her hair at home.

29 percent of bosses check up on excuses

The survey also found that a fair number of managers want to verify if sick workers are actually sick.

This was a big issue for me when I was a manager in Hawaii in a union shop, and mysteriously had a number of the surfers on staff call in sick when the surf was particularly large. I never caught any of them surfing when they should have been home in bed, but that was more because I didn’t have the time or resources to track all of them down.

Twenty-nine percent of employers say they have checked up on an employee to verify that his or her illness was legitimate, usually by requiring a doctor’s note or calling the employee later in the day.

Another 18 percent of employers have had other employees call a suspected faker, and 14 percent have even driven by the employee’s home.

All in all, some 17 percent of employers say they have fired employees for giving fake excuses.

Here are some other facts from the survey:

  • Some 31 percent of employers notice an uptick in sick days around the winter holidays.
  • Twenty percent of employers say their employees call in sick the most in December.
  • July is the second most popular month to skip out on work, followed by January and February.

Next to actually being sick, the most common reasons employees call in sick are:

  • They don’t feel like going to work (34 percent).
  • They feel like they need to relax (29 percent).
  • They need to make it to a doctor’s appointment (22 percent).
  • They need to catch up on sleep (16 percent).
  • They need to run errands (15 percent).

Yes, these are pretty kooky excuses, but my guess is you have more—and better—excuses.

If you’ve heard an employee give a crazy excuse for being sick, leave it in the comments below.

John Hollon is vice president for editorial of TLNT.com, and the former editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com. An award-winning journalist, he has written extensively about HR, talent management, and smart business and people practices. Contact him at john@tlnt.com, and follow him on Twitter @johnhollon. A version of this article originally appeared on TLNT.com.

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