Industry Market Trends

"Bats in My Hair" and Even Worse Excuses for Calling in Sick

Nov 08, 2011

As we enter cold and flu season, employees are expected to take more sick days than during any other period of the year. Some of them are too creative for their own good when calling in sick.

Cold weather means cold and flu season, often resulting in a call, e-mail or text to the boss saying you're taking the day off. According to, 30 percent of employers report that their employees call out sick more often during October through December than any other time in the year. In addition to sick days actually spent in bed with chicken soup and warm tea, there are also "sick" days when employees claim a sore throat or an upset stomach simply to get out of work.

We all need a break now and then, but how do we navigate the pitfalls of pitiful excuses and inappropriate timing?

Many employees report that they take sick days when they aren't actually sick. reveals that "only about 34 percent of last-minute employee absences are due to 'personal illness.' The rest take time off to deal with personal or family issues," as reported in a survey conducted by employment services firm CCH of more than 300 human-resources managers nationwide. These unscheduled absences usually occur on Mondays and Fridays or around major holidays.

Employee absence is not cheap. According to CCH, sick days cost employers an average of over $760,000 each year, in addition to intangible losses to employee morale and productivity. Many businesses are turning to work-life programs to reduce absences, such as providing employee assistance plans (72 percent), flu shot programs (66 percent), leave for school functions (54 percent) and alternative work arrangements (54 percent). Arranging telecommuting and "summer Fridays" account for other solutions.

Despite these programs, employees sometimes simply need a day off. "Most people today are juggling the demands of busy personal and professional lives, and are trying to do their very best in both of them," Pamela Wolf, a law analyst for CCH, explained in a statement. Most employees need a free day here and there to cope with personal and family issues, as well as to relax from workplace stress.

However, many employees get creative when explaining their unexpected absence. CareerBuilder's annual list of the most outrageous absence excuses includes these whoppers:

  • Employee's 12-year-old daughter stole his car and he had no other way to work. Employee didn't want to report it to the police.
  • Employee said bats got in her hair.
  • Employee said a refrigerator fell on him.
  • Employee was in line at a coffee shop when a truck carrying flour backed up and dumped the flour into her convertible.
  • Employee said a deer bit him during hunting season.
  • Employee ate too much at a party.
  • Employee fell out of bed and broke his nose.
  • Employee got a cold from a puppy.
  • Employee's child stuck a mint up his nose and he had to go to the ER to remove it.
  • Employee hurt his back chasing a beaver.
  • Employee got his toe caught in a vent cover.
  • Employee had a headache after going to too many garage sales.
  • Employee's brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel while in Mexico.
  • Employee drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the hospital.
  • Employee was at a bowling alley and a bucket filled with water crashed through the ceiling and hit her on the head.

For many employees, showing up late to work is another opportunity for crafting creative excuses.

One employee covered his tardiness by claiming he'd been too shocked by news that his brother had died...but he still wanted to finish his shift. "At the time, I needed the money," he said. takes a practical look at the fake sick day. If we all call in sick when we aren't actually sick, we should set some ground rules first:

  • Don't take off Monday or Friday, because it looks too suspicious.
  • Saying you have "food poisoning" is obviously false (go for strep throat instead).
  • If you want a day off to enjoy nice weather, wait until at least the second nice day of the season.
  • Rather than wasting your time off on a snow day, take your time getting into the office.
  • When your boss is away, you can gamble on not getting caught for a fake excuse.

The IMT staff can't vouch for these tips ourselves, as we would never think of doing such things.


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