Human Resources News & Insights

24 unbelievable excuses employees have given for skipping work

HR professionals deserve a lot of credit. You have to put up with some pretty crazy stuff. There are no better examples of that than the excuses employees give for not coming in to work. 

As it does every year, CareerBuilder asked HR and hiring managers to share the craziest call-out excuses they’ve heard.

This year’s results were priceless. Here are the 14 best excuses (taken straight from CareerBuilder’s survey results):

  • 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.
  • Employee was bitten by a duck.

On the plus side, fewer employees admit to making up excuses for calling out — as 35% said they’ve called in sick when they were just fine, which is down from 38% the previous year.

CareerBuilder surveyed 3,100 full-time employees in addition to more than 2,500 full-time HR and hiring managers in this year’s survey.

Of the 35% of workers who lied about their reasons for missing work, here’s why they did it:

  • Just didn’t feel like going in to work — 28%
  • Attend a doctor’s appointment — 27%
  • To relax — 24%
  • Catch up on sleep — 18%
  • Run personal errands — 11%

Employers’ reactions

Most employers (67%) take employees at their word when someone calls out, while the remaining 33% said they’ve checked to see if an employee was telling the truth. Here’s how they’ve followed up:

  • Asking to see a doctor’s note — 68% (of the 33% that followed up)
  • Calling the employee — 43%
  • Driving past the employee’s house — 18%.

In addition, 22% of employers said they’ve fired an employee for calling in sick with a made-up excuse.

2015’s best excuses

In case you’re curious (who wouldn’t be), here are the 10 best call-out excuses employers revealed in CareerBuilder’s 2015 survey:

  • Employee claimed his grandmother poisoned him with ham.
  • Employee was stuck under the bed.
  • Employee broke his arm reaching to grab a falling sandwich.
  • Employee said the universe was telling him to take a day off.
  • Employee’s wife found out he was cheating. He had to spend the day retrieving his belongings from the dumpster.
  • Employee poked herself in the eye while combing her hair.
  • Employee said his wife put all his underwear in the washer.
  • Employee said the meal he cooked for a department potluck didn’t turn out well.
  • Employee was going to the beach because the doctor said she needed more vitamin D.
  • Employee said her cat was stuck inside the dashboard of her car.
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