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'Broken heart' and other fake sick day excuses

Oct. 12, 2012 at 7:10 AM ET

It's no surprise that not everyone who calls in sick isn't doesn't really have the sniffles. Thirty percent of workers admitted to calling in sick when they weren't actually under the weather, a new Careerbuilder survey reports.

What might be surprising are some of the more creative excuses they've tried to use to get out of work, and just how many employers are out to catch them.

The online poll conducted by Harris Interactive surveyed 3,976 workers and 2,494 U.S. hiring managers and human resource workers. In addition to raw numbers, Careerbuilder also collected the memorable excuses bosses had heard.

How about the employee who called in sick because they were "upset after watching 'The Hunger Games'"? Or the guy who said he "forgot he was hired for the job?" Or the person who couldn't come in to work because they were "sick from reading too much"?

Other eyebrow-raising reasons included "toe stuck in faucet," "dead grandmother being exhumed for police investigation," "bird bite," "broken heart," and "sobriety tool wouldn't allow car to start."

What motivates the strategies behind these excuses? "Some subscribe to a 'less is more' mentality while others may feel the more detail they provide, the more believable the excuse will be," said Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder vice president of human resources.

Bosses are on the watch for flimsy excuses and will take steps to sniff out a faker. A surprising 29 percent of employers said they checked out an employee's story, most commonly by asking for a doctor's note or calling the worker later in the day.
 
Fourteen percent said they even drove by an employee's house, which just sounds creepy and not useful. What are you going to do, peer through their blinds and see if they're doing Zumba when they should be under the covers?

And here's one to stoke your paranoia. Bosses may even recruit your co-workers to ferret out the truth -- 18 percent of employers said they tried this ruse.

Employees fraudulently cash in sick days for a variety of reasons, but basically it's to carve off extra time for themselves. If they weren't actually sick, 34 percent said they called in sick because they didn't feel like going to work, 29 percent said they "needed to relax," 22 percent needed to make a doctor's appointment, 16 percent were catching up on sleep, and 15 percent wanted to run errands.

Those who call in fake sick days "may be repeat offenders for truancy or may be concerned about how their boss may perceive them," said Haefner. "However, if you’re caught lying, that can have more serious consequences and bring your professionalism and reliability into question. It’s better to be honest."

Should an employer catch you in your lie, it could lead to them becoming a former employer. Seventeen percent of bosses said they fired an employee for giving a a fake excuse. Then you'll have all the sick days you need.

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