Nudity, Hot Pepper Headaches Among Kooky Reasons for Missing Work

By SHRM Online staff Oct 26, 2009

An employee too sunburned to wear clothes? A worker who can’t make it to work after waking up in another country?

Those are among the oddball excuses for missing work, according to an online survey for CareerBuilder. It was conducted Aug. 20-Sept. 9, 2009, in the United States with 3,163 full-time hiring managers and HR professionals with significant involvement in hiring decisions. Among the standouts:

  • "I got sunburned at a nude beach and can’t wear clothes."
  • "I woke up in Canada."
  • "I got caught selling an alligator."
  • "My buddies locked me in the trunk of an abandoned car after a weekend of drinking."
  • "My mom said I was not allowed to go to work today."
  • "A bee flew in my mouth."
  • "I was injured chasing a seagull."
  • "I’m just not into it today."
  • "I accidentally hit a nun with my motorcycle."
  • "A random person threw poison ivy in my face and now I have a rash."
  • "I’m convinced my spouse is having an affair and I’m staying home to catch them."
  • "I have a headache from eating hot peppers."

“Some of the best real excuses I have received from employees for not reporting to work,” Pam Venne told SHRM Online in an e-mail, included the woman who could not find anything to wear.

“[She] said she had changed five times and was just worn out so she was going back to bed,” recalled Venne, a licensed professional counselor, certified manager/leader coach for the Behavioral Coaching Institute and a certified assessment-based coach.

Then there was the employee who said, “My brother won the lottery and we are going out to celebrate. I will be back in a week,” Venne recalled.

Gators seem to be a recurring theme. One employee called in to explain that “there is an alligator sunning himself in the sprinkler on the lawn and he is between me and the car. I am not coming out until he leaves!”

Among favorite kooky excuses Venne has heard was the employee who called in to report, “I got drunk and evidently got married last night and I am not coming in until I figure out who I married.”

Flakiness is a factor in wacky excuses for staying home from work.

At a previous employer, “an employee called in with only about one hour left before the end of her Friday shift and said, ‘It just felt like a Saturday and I only realized that it was, in fact, Friday when I just now called my husband on his cell phone to ask where in the world he was,” Matthew Arrigale, vice president of HR for the Americas at SCHOTT North America Inc., told SHRM Online in an e-mail.

Turns out hubby was working an earlier shift and had left before his wife woke up.

YourJob MyOffice CEO Sonia Schenker remembers the co-worker from a former job who explained her inability to report to work one day “because it was the one day per year that the bridal store had its $99 sale.”

“I still laugh at the fact that it didn’t even occur to her to make up a story!” Schenker told SHRM Online in an e-mail.

It just shows that sometimes taking a sick day has nothing to do with being under the weather, and most employers take that into consideration, according to the findings. In fact, 28 percent of employers think more workers fake an excuse because of increased stress and burnout related to the recession.

“Longer hours and heavier workloads are common in the current economic climate, and employers are becoming more flexible with their time-off policies,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of HR at CareerBuilder, in a news release. About 63 percent of companies let their employees use sick days for mental health days.

Among the 4,721 full-time U.S. workers surveyed for CareerBuilder, 32 percent have played hooky from work at least once during 2009. Among their reasons:

  • 32 percent didn’t feel like going to work.
  • 31 percent used a sick day to keep a doctor’s appointment.
  • 28 percent used a sick day to relax.
  • 16 percent caught up on sleep.
  • 13 percent used a sick day to run personal errands.
  • 12 percent used a sick day for work reasons, such as to duck a meeting, give themselves more time to finish a project or avoid a boss, client or co-worker.
  • 10 percent used it to catch up on housework or spend time with family and friends.

While the majority of employers surveyed typically don’t question the reason for an absence, 29 percent checked on employees who called in sick. Among that 29 percent, 70 percent of employers required a doctor’s note from workers who took sick time. In addition, 52 percent called the worker’s home, 18 percent had another worker call the absent employee, and 17 percent drove by the employee’s residence. Fifteen percent fired an employee for missing work without a legitimate excuse.

“If you need time to recharge,” Haefner advises workers, “your best bet is to be honest with your manager.”

Related Article:

Excuses, Excuses, HR News, March 3, 2008


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job

HR Professional Development Education in a City Near You

SHRM Seminars are coming to cities across the US this fall.

Find a Seminar


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect