‘I Can’t Come in Today, the Planets Are in Retrograde’

By SHRM Online staff Nov 4, 2008

The excuses for not reporting to work can be legendary, like the female worker who claimed she had to stay home because her psychic said so, but the real reason is probably more mundane.

Thirty-three percent of workers have played hooky from the office at least once during 2008, according to a survey conducted with 3,388 hiring managers and HR professionals and 6,842 full-time U.S. employees during August and September 2008.

Among the most unusual excuses employees have given for missing work, according to CareerBuilder.com:

  • A psychic told the employee to stay home.
  • The employee had to stay home and butcher the pig he shot.
  • The employee had to find his pet iguana that had gotten loose.
  • An alligator in the driveway blocked the employee from reaching her car.
  • Being kicked by a deer.
  • Swallowing too much mouthwash.
  • Donating too much blood.
  • Smoking too many cigarettes the previous night.
  • Contracting mono after kissing a mailroom intern at the company holiday party; the employee suggested posting a notice to warn others who may also have kissed the intern.
  • A toe injury from a can of soda falling out of the refrigerator.
  • The employee dropped a knife and injured her toe.
  • The employee had a heart attack early that morning but was “all better now.”
  • The employee’s dog was stressed-out following the employee’s family reunion.
  • The employee didn’t want to lose the parking space in front of his house.
  • The employee had been unable to sleep because a convicted felon had been roaming her neighborhood in the night.
  • The employee’s wife burned his clothes, and he didn’t have anything to wear to work.
  • A police investigation of the death of a person discovered behind the employee’s house kept her up all night.
  • The employee was riding a bike and hit a turkey.

A majority of employees fake illness because they just don’t feel like going to work (34 percent), they want to relax and recharge (30 percent), they need to go to a doctor’s appointment (27 percent) or they want to catch some z’s (22 percent), according to the CareerBuilder.com-commissioned survey.

A smaller percentage said that they wanted time to run personal errands (14 percent), catch up on housework (11 percent) or spend time with family and friends (11 percent), or that they wanted to dodge a meeting, buy some time to work on an already-due project, or avoid a boss or colleague’s wrath (9 percent).

Most employers typically don’t question the reason for an absence, the survey found, although 31 percent have checked up on an employee who called in sick and 18 percent have fired a worker for missing work without having a legitimate excuse.


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