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Home  > Article

20 Worst Excuses for Calling in Sick

By Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder

You've heard of the dog who ate homework, but what about the cat who unplugged the alarm clock? These days, people are getting very creative when they don't want to go to work.

In CareerBuilder's survey "Out of the Office," more than one-third of U.S. workers say they played hooky from work over the last twelve months. Thirty-five percent of workers admit to calling in sick when they felt well at least once during the last year, and one-in-ten say they did so three or more times.

Why are they calling in sick? The top three motivators for faking include attending to personal errands and appointments, catching up on sleep and simply relaxing. The reasons also include attending a child's event, bad weather, making plans with friends and going on a job interview.

"With the cold and flu season kicking in, it's a popular time of year for employees to call in sick," said Rosemary Haefner, Senior Career Advisor for "However, the number of those who are actually feeling under the weather may not necessarily match up with unscheduled absences. Twenty percent of workers say they called into work because they just didn't feel like going into the office that day. One-in-four workers report they feel sick days are equivalent to extra vacation days and treat them as such."

The CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey, conducted for CCH by Harris Interactive confirmed this trend. CCH found most employees who fail to show up for work, however, aren't physically ill, according to the survey. In fact, only 38 percent of unscheduled absences are due to Personal Illness, while 62 percent are for other reasons, including Family Issues (23 percent), Personal Needs (18 percent), Stress (11 percent) and Entitlement Mentality (10 percent).

One trend that also may be influencing the higher rate of unscheduled absences is the fact that the number of employers allowing employees to carry over sick time from one year to the next is trending downward and has dropped from more than one-half of companies.  As a result, employees may be saying, "I'd rather use it than lose it," noted Lori Rosen, J.D., CCH workplace analyst, and author of HR Networking: Work-Life Benefits.

But could you get away with saying you had to go to your mother's dog's funeral or that you had brain cancer? Would you believe an employee who had the swine flu, forgot the way to work or was arrested because of mistaken identity?

Think carefully, if you're debating calling in sick, here are some of the most unusual excuses workers gave for missing work.
  • I was sprayed by a skunk.
  • I tripped over my dog and was knocked unconscious.
  • My bus broke down and was held up by robbers.
  • I was arrested as a result of mistaken identity.
  • I forgot to come back to work after lunch.
  • I couldn't find my shoes.
  • I hurt myself bowling.
  • I was spit on by a venomous snake.
  • I totaled my wife's jeep in a collision with a cow.
  • A hitman was looking for me.
  • My curlers burned my hair, and I had to go to the hairdresser.
  • I eloped.
  • My brain went to sleep, and I couldn't wake it up.
  • My cat unplugged my alarm clock.
  • I had to be there for my husband's grand jury trial.
  • I had to ship my grandmother's bones to India. (note: she passed away 20 years ago)
  • I forgot what day of the week it was.
  • Someone slipped drugs in my drink last night.
  • A tree fell on my car.
  • My monkey died.

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article.

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