Human Resources News & Insights

‘Waiting for the judge to set bail’: The worst employee excuses for being late

It’s one of HR pros’ favorite times of the year — when there’s proof that other companies do, indeed, have employees as crazy as their own. Herewith, the latest list of workers’ most bizarre reasons for being late to work.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, traffic is the most common cause of tardiness among employees (50%), followed by lack of sleep (30%) and bad weather (26%). Trying to get the kids to school or daycare is a roadblock for one in 10 workers (12%), while public transportation and wardrobe issues get in the way of being on time for 7% and 6% of workers, respectively.

But you know all that. Here’s why you clicked on this story — the most outrageous excuses employees have given their bosses for being late:

  • I knocked myself out in the shower.
  • I was drunk and forgot which Waffle House I parked my car next to.
  • I discovered my spouse was having an affair, so I followed him this morning to find out who he was having an affair with.
  • Someone robbed the gas station I was at, and I didn’t have enough gas to get to another station.
  •  I had to wait for the judge to set my bail.
  • There was a stranger sleeping in my car.
  •  A deer herd that was moving through town made me late.
  • I’m not late. I was thinking about work on the way in.
  •  I dreamed that I got fired.
  • I went out to my car to drive to work, and the trunk had been stolen out of it. (In this case, the employee had the photos to prove it, CareerBuilder said.)

Different strokes

Of the workers who admitted being late for work in the past, three in 10 said they lied about the reason for their tardiness (30%). And they may well have reason to fib: 41% of employers said they’ve actually fired an employee for being late.

Some employers seem more lenient than others, however. One third of employers (33%) said they have no problem with the occasional late arrival, as long as it doesn’t become a pattern, and 16% said they don’t need employees to be punctual if they can still get their work done. (Indeed, 59% of workers who arrive late will stay later to make up for it.)

How often are people late? More than one in 5 workers (23%) admitted they’re tardy at least once a month, and 14% say it’s a weekly occurrence.

More than 2,100 hiring and human resource managers and more than 3,000 workers across industries participated in the nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll late last year.


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