‘A Herd of Deer Made Me Late’

By Kathy Gurchiek Feb 5, 2015

It’s hard to be on time for work when you’re waiting for the judge to set your bail, you knocked yourself out in the shower or you dreamed you were fired.

Those are among the more bizarre excuses human resource professionals have heard from employees trailing into work late, according to a CareerBuilder report released Jan. 29, 2015. The online job board collected excuses from 2,192 hiring managers and human resource professionals and 3,056 U.S. full-time workers in an online survey conducted in November 2014.

Other outrageous explanations that CareerBuilder came across:

  • A herd of deer moving through town slowed traffic.
  • 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.
  • There was a stranger sleeping in my car.
  • I went out to my car to drive to work, and the trunk had been stolen out of it—and I have the photo to prove it.
  • I’m not late. I was thinking about work on the way in.

Nearly one-fourth of workers admitted they are late to work at least once a month; it’s a weekly occurrence for 14 percent of them. Traffic was the most common excuse for tardiness (50 percent), according to CareerBuilder, followed by lack of sleep (30 percent), bad weather (26 percent), getting children ready for school or day care (12 percent), public transportation (7 percent) and wardrobe issues (6 percent). Thirty percent of workers admitted they lied about why they were late.

“I had an employee who stated [that] an inmate had escaped from the prison and all traffic was stopped so the police could conduct a search,” said Jacalyn Staten, in a discussion on the Society for Human Resource Management’s LinkedIn page. “Funny, [there was] no information about a prison break on the news or in the paper.”

Staten, a client recruitment specialist, said the employee was pardoned:

“My employee was not terminated as he did not have a history of absenteeism. I did let him know that I appreciated his creativity!”

Forty-one percent of employers do terminate workers for tardiness, according to CareerBuilder. One-third don’t mind a late arrival as long as it doesn’t become a habit, and 16 percent said punctuality is not an issue as long as the work gets done. In fact, 59 percent of workers who copped to coming in late said they stay to make up the time.

At least Staten’s employee found his way to work; HR professional Marsha Spiering said in the LinkedIn discussion that she had an employee of five years explain he was late because he got lost.

HR consultant Claudell Maggio, SHRM-CP, PHR, was especially amused by the excuse from an employee who was 2.5 hours late.

“[He] brought me a letter from his pastor saying he was in church on Sunday and it ran long, that’s why he was late,” she chimed in during the discussion.

The best excuse Beth Powell heard was from a worker who did not show up for work for a week and did not contact his supervisor by e-mail or phone; he simply reappeared the following Monday.

“His supervisor, naturally, sent him to HR,” the recruiter/HR generalist recounted in the discussion. “Here is the story I got when I asked him why he had not called:

“ ‘I went out of town for the weekend and thought I would be back on Monday. But then, my friend got shot and I had to take him to the hospital and then I stayed with him until his Mama got there and then I had to drive all day yesterday so I would be back here on time today.’

“When asked again why he did not notify anyone of all this, he said, ‘Well, they only gave me one phone call, so I called my friend’s Mama!’ ”

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

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

Search & Connect