Airborne False Teeth, Angry Bees Among Sick-Day Excuses

By Kathy Gurchiek Oct 28, 2013
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Don’t you hate it when you don’t know what to wear to work, your fake eyeball falls out of its socket or your fave football team loses? It’s enough to make you call in sick—and some people have, using those very excuses, according to CareerBuilder’s national online survey.

Among the most outrageous excuses for taking a sick day that CareerBuilder reported:

*A swarm of bees surrounded the employee’s vehicle, preventing him from getting into it.

*The sleep-inducing element in turkey, L-tryptophan, made the employee fall asleep and miss his or her shift.

*Employee needed to report to the FBI a threatening phone call from the electric company.

*Employee couldn’t leave the house because someone glued her doors and windows shut.

*Employee needed Monday off to recover from his or her football team’s loss on Sunday.

*Employee was grouchy from quitting smoking.

*Employee was so angry he was going to hurt someone if he came to work.

*Employee bit her tongue and couldn’t talk.

*Employee needed to finish Christmas shopping.

*Employee couldn’t decide what to wear to work.

*Employee’s fake eye was falling from its socket.

*Employee’s false teeth flew out the window while the worker was driving down the highway.

*Employee got lost and ended up in another state. (It isn’t known whether the employee witnessed any airborne dental work while driving.)

Members of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) LinkedIn discussion group weighed in October 2013 with some memorable sick-day excuses they’ve received over the years.

Mary Moravek recalled the employee who couldn’t come to work, claiming “they weren’t on top of their game.” Jennifer Bass noted an employee who had to stay home to do laundry because there was nothing to wear “but then asked if clothing is required to come to work.” And Carmela Ginsberg couldn’t forget the employee who had to stay home after being up all night with a sick fish in the backyard pond.

Other excuses discussion members shared:

*“The witch next door put a curse on me.”

*“I got a fever from my blow-dryer.”

*“I have a migraine and will be out Thursday.” This was reported on Friday, seven days before the so-called migraine.

*“Power went out. Garage door won’t open [and I] got a headache from trying to open it.”

*“I have a really bad hangover.”

*"I'm too high to drive."

*“I heard we are having a drug test.”

*“My cat knocked over a large plant and dirt is all over my carpet. I need to stay home to clean up the mess and comfort my cat who feels really badly about the whole thing.”

*“Piercing was infected; also, I’m in jail, but I didn’t do anything.”

*"I got a rash from a toilet seat; it may have been at work so does workers comp cover it? Should I come in and show it to you?"

*Menstrual cramps—reported by male employee.

*Employee had to play in a paintball tournament to fill in for a sick teammate and “the team needed him.”

Sick? Or Sick of Work?

Like the bedeviled high school principal in the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” 30 percent of employers check in on workers who call in sick to see if they are—cough, cough—faking illness.

Among those who played detective, 19 percent checked the employee’s social media posts, 17 percent had another worker call the absent employee, and 15 percent drove past the person’s house. Woe to some who get caught: 16 percent of employers have fired workers for calling in sick with a made-up excuse.

In the last year, nearly one-third of employees haven’t been ill when they called in sick. Thirty-three percent took a sick day because they didn’t feel like showing up, and 28 percent needed to relax and used sick time as a mental-health day. Others used their sick time to see the doctor (24 percent), sleep (19 percent) or run personal errands (14 percent).

Thirty percent of hiring managers and HR professionals surveyed for CareerBuilder noticed that the number of sick days taken increases around the holidays—19 percent said workers most often call in sick in December. The next busiest months for sick days are January and February.

Halloween has its moments, though. Lisa Lewis recalled for SHRM LinkedIn members the time an employee called in the day after Halloween, explaining he couldn't come to work because the night before he wore a long evening gown and high heels as a costume.

“After a night of heavy drinking and bar hopping, he tripped on his dress, fell on his face and chipped his two front [teeth]. He was now home trying to schedule a dental appointment. Way too much information!” she wrote.

On the flip side are employees who drag themselves into work when they’re ill: 30 percent did so in order to save their sick time for when they feel well, and 20 percent called in sick in the last year but worked from home throughout the day. No data were available on whether bosses ordered sick employees to quit working or return home.

The annual survey was conducted from Aug. 13, 2013, to Sept. 6, 2013, with 2,099 hiring managers and HR professionals and 3,484 full-time nongovernmental U.S. workers. CareerBuilder released its findings Oct. 24, 2013.

Related article:

Calling in Sick? 'I Have the Flu' Is No Match for Some Excuses, HR News, October 2011

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