Americans are generally a hard-working bunch, but there are times when some workers feel the need to call in sick when they aren't actually ill.
That's when some workers hand out some unfortunate excuses for why they can't come into work. While the oddness of these excuses may tip off bosses that the employee isn't telling the whole truth, employers also rely on some old-fashioned detective work to find out if the worker was really sick, according to a survey from CareerBuilder.
One-third of employers check to see if their workers were being honest, relying on techniques such as checking the worker's social media posts (hint: it's not a good idea to post about partying when you're supposed to be in bed with a fever) or calling them to check in. Bosses also sometimes ask for a doctor's note.
Calling in sick while actually feeling healthy is on the rise. CareerBuilder found that 38 percent of workers have done so in the past year, up from about 28 percent in the previous year. Some said they had a doctor's appointment, while 26 percent told their bosses they just needed to relax. Another 21 percent said they needed to get some sleep. The reason for the increase in people calling in sick when they aren't could be due to two changes in the workplace, said Ladan Nikravan, a spokeswoman for CareerBuilder.
"One reason may be that people are feeling more secure in their employment situation," she noted. "Also, many employers have broadened the definition of a sick day to include mental health days."
Despite the rise in fake sick days, many workers go to their jobs while actually ill, the study found. About 54 percent of the more than 3,300 full-time workers that were polled said they had showed up for work despite being sick because they felt the work wouldn't get done, while about half said they couldn't miss a day of pay.
The latter issue highlights how many Americans lack paid time off, ranging from sick days to vacation days. Hourly workers in low-paid occupations are unlikely to receive paid-time off, and about 40 percent of private-sector workers in the U.S. lack paid-sick days, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
There's a societal cost to a lack of paid sick days: employees who showed up for work while infected with the H1N1 flu are estimated to have infected as many as 7 million co-workers, according to a 2010 research paper by the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
On the other hand, calling in sick while feeling healthy has a potential downside: getting fired. About one out of five employers said they had fired a worker for calling in with a fake excuse, according to the CareerBuilder survey, which also polled 2,326 hiring managers and human resource executives.
The best policy is to be upfront with your employer, Nikravan said. "If you feel you need a day off, your best bet is to be honest with your manager. Otherwise, you can lose credibility by making over-the-top excuses. Many employers are more flexible in their definition of a sick day and will allow employees to use them to recharge and take care of personal needs."
The following are the worst excuses given by employees for calling in sick:
1. Employee claimed his grandmother poisoned him with ham.
2. Employee was stuck under the bed.
3. Employee broke his arm reaching to grab a falling sandwich.
4. Employee said the universe was telling him to take a day off.
5. Employee's wife found out he was cheating. He had to spend the day retrieving his belongings from the dumpster.
6. Employee poked herself in the eye while combing her hair.
7. Employee said his wife put all his underwear in the washer.
8. Employee said the meal he cooked for a department potluck didn't turn out well.
9. Employee was going to the beach because the doctor said she needed more vitamin D.
10. Employee said her cat was stuck inside the dashboard of her car.
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Aimee Picchi, Moneywatch