The Most Absurd Reasons For Calling In Sick

Two years ago one employee said he couldn’t come in because his false teeth flew out the window while he was driving down the highway. Last year a worker said he felt he had to stay at a casino when he had money left after a gambling weekend. Another employee woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it. All of these silly excuses come from past surveys by jobs site CareerBuilder of employees’ most absurd reasons for calling in sick.

Some gems from this year’s list: Employee claimed his grandmother poisoned him with ham. Employee said the universe was telling him to take a day off. Employee said his wife put all his underwear in the washer. Employee said her cat was stuck inside the dashboard of the car (how would that happen exactly?).

Given the debate in political circles over sick leave and the fact that the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t mandate it at the federal level, it seems a little tone deaf to write a story about excuses for calling in sick. But CareerBuilder has released this chukle-worthy list for the past 11 years, and our readers seem to enjoy it, so I’m offering it once more.

For the record, only four states mandate paid sick leave (CT, CA, MA, OR) in addition to 19 cities and one county. Of course many employers offer paid sick leave whether their states or municipalities mandate it or not. Still, according to 2014 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26% of full-time workers in the U.S. get no paid sick leave at all.

To compile its data, CareerBuilder used Harris Poll to run online surveys of 2,300 hiring and HR managers and 3,300 full-time non-government employees between Aug. 12 and Sept. 2, 2015. Though Harris didn’t ask how many companies had sick leave policies, a striking 48% of respondents said they couldn’t afford to miss a day of pay, up from 38% last year. That would suggest that employers are getting a lot stingier about offering sick days. That or employees are getting sicker and using up their allotted time. The statistics differ by age group. A startling 71% of workers age 18-24 said they couldn’t afford to miss a day’s pay. Since younger workers tend to be healthier than older workers, it would suggest that they don’t have a paid time off policy.

For what it’s worth, at Forbes we don’t have an explicit sick day policy that provides a designated number of days off for illness. But when we get sick, we are not expected to work as long as we tell our supervisor. We aren’t docked any pay.

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