Running Late Due to Running Zebra

March 4, 2014 ( – A recent survey chronicled the best excuses from employees for their lateness, ranging from escaped zebras to must-see TV.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of employees admit to arriving late at least once a month on average, with 15% admitting doing so at least once a week, according to the CareerBuilder survey.

“Most employers understand that occasionally things pop up and cause employees to be behind schedule. The trouble comes when tardiness becomes a habit,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at the Chicago-based CareerBuilder.

Employees tend to run into some roadblocks more often than others. Traffic remains the most common reason employees say they’re late (39%), followed by lack of sleep (19%), problems with public transportation (8%), bad weather (7%), and dropping the kids off at daycare or school (6%).

Some of the less common reasons for lateness used by employees include:

  • A zebra running down the highway and holding up traffic (which turned out to be true);
  • Waking up on the front lawn of a house two blocks away from his home;
  • Cat got stuck in the toilet;
  • Ran out of milk for cereal and had to buy some before getting ready for work;
  • Fell asleep in the car when he got to work;
  • Accidentally put superglue in her eye instead of contact lens solution, and had to go to the emergency room;
  • Thought Halloween was a work holiday;
  • A hole in the roof caused rain to fall on the alarm clock and it didn’t go off;
  • Was watching something on TV and really wanted to see the end;
  • Forgot that the company had changed locations;
  • Got a hairbrush stuck in her hair; and
  • Scared by a nightmare.

Haefner adds that running late can have big repercussions for employees. One in three (35%) employers have fired an employee for lateness and 48% of employers expect their employees to be on time every day. Thirty-four percent say they allow employees to be late every once in a while, as long as it does not become a pattern, and 18% do not care how their employees manage their time as long as they get their work done well.

This national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll, on behalf of CareerBuilder, from November 6 to December 2, 2013. It included a representative sample of 3,008 full-time, private sector workers and 2,201 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.