The worst excuses for skipping work

What happens when "the dog ate my homework" grows up and gets a job? It turns into "my uniform caught fire" and "I accidentally got on a plane."

Employers hear plenty of dumb excuses for missing work, a new survey from CareerBuilder shows. The company interviewed workers and human resource professionals across the country recently to get more details about how and why people call in sick.

The survey showed that plenty of people are faking it. Some 28 percent of workers called in sick over the last year when they were feeling just fine. That's down from 32 percent the previous year.

Why are they playing hooky? Nearly a third just didn't feel like going in. Some 29 percent said they wanted to relax for the day, 21 percent had a doctor's appointment and 19 percent wanted to get more sleep. About 11 percent said bad weather kept them home.

Here's some advice: When you call in to miss work, simply saying "I'm sick" as the reason works remarkably well. But some workers needed to get a little more creative. Employers reported hearing these real-life excuses over the last year:

  • I just put a casserole in the oven.
  • My plastic surgery needs some tweaking to get it just right.
  • My feet and legs fell asleep when I was sitting in the bathroom, and when I stood up I broke my ankle.
  • I was gambling at the casino all weekend and still have money left. I need to stay to win it back.
  • I'm stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store.
  • I got lucky last night and don't know where I am this morning.
  • I put my uniform in the microwave to dry and it caught fire.
  • I accidentally got on a plane.

And then there was this excuse, which wins serious points for honesty: I woke up in a good mood and don't want to ruin it.

About a third of employers said they've checked on sick workers to see if they were telling the truth. Some asked to see a doctor's note, and others called the employee later that day.

Around 15 percent of bosses went into stalker mode and drove past the employee's house. What were they hoping to see? Empty cough syrup bottles in the garbage? Random puddles of phlegm? An ambulance in the driveway?

But perhaps the easiest way to bust someone these days is by checking social media. Nearly one in four employers have discovered a "sick" worker telling an altogether different story on Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR).

When employers did bust someone for playing hooky, about one in five said they fired that worker. More than half said they simply reprimanded that person for telling a lie.

Worker advocates have long campaigned for more paid time off at companies, saying the policy adds stability to the workplace. Employees wouldn't have to lie about skipping work, and a paid mental health day can do wonders for worker morale.

But that wouldn't completely stop the games, according to the survey. About half of employees said they have paid time off at work, and of those, nearly a quarter said they still make up excuses to get another day away from the office.

  • Kim Peterson

    Kim Peterson is a financial journalist covering business and the economy. She has written for several online and print publications, including MSN Money and The Seattle Times.