This Year’s Craziest Excuses for Calling in Sick

Slightly fewer workers this year say they have called in sick although they were feeling fine over the last 12 months, according to a CareerBuilder survey.

More than one-third of workers (35%) said they have called in to work sick when they were feeling just fine, down from 38% last year.

When asked why they called in sick when they were feeling well, 28% reported they just didn’t feel like going in to work, and 27% took the day off to attend a doctor’s appointment. Another 24% said they needed to just relax, and 18% needed to catch up on sleep. Eleven percent took the day off to run personal errands.

When asked to share the most dubious excuses employees have given for calling in sick, employers reported hearing the following real-life examples:

  • Employee said the ozone in the air flattened his tires;
  • Employee’s pressure cooker had exploded and scared her sister, so she had to stay home;
  • Employee had to attend the funeral of his wife’s cousin’s pet because he was an uncle and pallbearer;
  • Employee was blocked in by police raiding her home;
  • Employee had to testify against a drug dealer and the dealer’s friend mugged him;
  • Employee said her roots were showing and she had to keep her hair appointment because she looked like a mess;
  • Employee ate cat food instead of tuna and was deathly ill;
  • Employee said she wasn’t sick but her llama was;
  • Employee had used a hair remover under her arms and had chemical burns as a result. She couldn’t put her arms down by her sides due to that;
  • Employee was bowling the game of his life and couldn’t make it to work;
  • Employee was experiencing traumatic stress from a large spider found in her home. She had to stay home to deal with the spider;
  • Employee said he had better things to do;
  • Employee ate too much birthday cake; and
  • Employee was bit by a duck.
NEXT: Getting caught

Though the majority of employers (67%) give their employees the benefit of the doubt, 33% say they have checked to see if an employee was telling the truth in one way or another, on par with last year. Among employers who have checked up on an employee who called in sick, asking to see a doctor's note was the most popular way to find out if the absence was legit (68%), followed by calling the employee (43%).

As many as 18% of employers went the extra mile and drove past the employee's house. More than one in five employers (22%) say they have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse, on par with last year.

Some workers have inadvertently busted themselves online. More than one-third of employers (34%) have caught an employee lying about being sick by checking social media. Of those, 27% have actually fired the employee, but 55% were more forgiving, only reprimanding the employee for the lie.

Not every employee feels like they can afford to take some time off, however. Nearly half of employees (47%) said they come into work when they're sick because they can't afford to miss a day of pay, and 60% come in because they're worried the work won't get done otherwise (both more common for women than men, 50% of women and 43% of men; and 62% of women and 57% of men, respectively).

Further, 16% of employees said that while they have called in sick in the last year, they've had to work from home for at least part of the day, if not the whole day, while ill.

More than half of employees (53%) say they their company has paid time off (PTO) programs where sick days, vacation days and personal days are all lumped together, so employees can use their time off however they choose. Of employees who say that their company has those types of programs, more than one-quarter (28%) still feel obligated to make up an excuse to take a day off. In addition, overall, 25% of employees said they never log every day they take off.

More than 3,100 full-time workers and more than 2,500 full-time hiring and human resource managers (of which 2,379 are in the private sector) across industries participated in the nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from August 11 to September 7, 2016.