The worst excuses for taking a sick day

If you've ever called in sick to work when you weren't ill, you're not alone. 

Forty percent of workers have done that during the past 12 months, an increase of 5 percentage points from a year earlier, according to CareerBuilder's annual survey of employees and human resources managers. The top reason for calling in sick while not actually ill is to go to a doctor's appointment, followed by simply not feeling like going to work. 

Rather than simply tell a boss they're taking the day off sick, some workers offer outlandish excuses, which raise red flags for employers, said CareerBuilder spokesman Michael Erwin. It's no surprise that almost four out of 10 employers report checking up on a sick employee -- and the consequences for being found out in a lie can be severe. About one-quarter of employers say they've fired someone for concocting a fake excuse. 

The rise in workers calling in sick might be due to "the environment we live in. There's a lot of stress. People say the news stresses them out, and life stresses them out," Erwin said. "They're using a sick day, rather than saying, 'I want to recharge my batteries.'"

Social media often provides the tell-tale sign that a worker is faking it, he added. Many employers will check Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to confirm whether a worker is being truthful in calling in sick. That means employees need to be careful about posting personal items when they're supposed to be recovering from illness. 

"Some people will say, 'I'm not friends with my boss on Facebook,'" but a co-worker might be friends with both the "sick" employee and the boss, who might then ask the mutual connection to check up on the absent worker, Erwin noted. "We're so connected, so you have to be careful."

When it comes to giving an excuse for calling in sick, it's best to keep it simple, especially for workers who are new to the job or who don't have a strong relationship with their boss, Erwin added. His advice is to say something like, "I"m not able to come in today because I'm sick."

"When people get caught in the lie, they feel they have to come up with a reason, and it gets bigger an bigger and raises a red flag and can kill the trust you have with your boss," he said. "We live in a world where we wonder what's fake and what's real, and when we hear something crazy, we're less likely to believe them."

The survey was based on responses from 2,257 hiring and HR managers, and 3,697 full-time employees. Below are some of the craziest excuses employers reported. 

  • A bear was in employee's yard, and they were afraid to come out
  • Employee's phone exploded, and it hurt their hand
  • Employee ate a toothpick in his food at restaurant
  • Employee broke his arm wrestling a female bodybuilder
  • Employee called in "fat" because uniform didn't fit
  • Dog swallowed employee's car keys, so she was waiting until it came out
  • Employee left his clothes at the laundromat
  • Employee didn't have enough gas to get to work
  • Employee had to reschedule a manicure because some of her artificial nails fell off
  • Employee wasn't sure how the solar eclipse would affect them, so it would be safer to stay at home