Can't Work, Eyes Glued Shut: Survey Reveals the Most Memorable Excuses for Being Late

No, Halloween isn't a work holiday

lazy man is smashing the alarm...
How do you act when you're late for work? Do you quietly slink over to your desk, trying to avoid your boss's line of sight, or do you come in with excuses blasting from both barrels, whether they're as mundane as your kids waking up sick or as oddly specific as your hamster falling into the laundry chute? A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 23 percent of employees admit to being tardy at least once a month (another 15 percent say they show up late once a week), frequently citing things like traffic and weather. But some employees took their creativity a step further, and doled out excuses that were perhaps too reliant on the notion that truth is often stranger than fiction.

1. Employee's cat got stuck in the toilet.
Hung over kitty!

2. Employee woke up on the front lawn of a house two blocks away from his home.
A young man who appears to be passed out amongst a pile of discarded junk, in a shady neighborhood.
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3. Employee couldn't eat breakfast--he ran out of milk for cereal and had to buy some before getting ready for work.
Colorful cereal in bowl on white background

4. Employee was late because he fell asleep in the car when he got to work.
A Surplus Of Taxis Roam The Streets Of Madrid
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5. Employee accidentally put superglue in her eye instead of contact lens solution, and had to go to the emergency room.
Spilled Glue
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6. Employee thought Halloween was a work holiday.
Halloween at the Office 2008 - 05

7. Employee said a hole in the roof caused rain to fall on the alarm clock and it didn't go off.
Hole in the roof of the barracks

8. Employee was watching something on TV and really wanted to see the end.

9. Employee forgot that the company changed locations.
Businessman using laptop in empty office
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10. Employee got a hairbrush stuck in her hair.
Women with messy hair looking at her hairbrush.
Getty Images

11. Employee claimed a zebra was running down the highway and held up traffic (this turned out to be true).
Zebra Cab
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12. Employee was scared by a nightmare.
Getty Images

> Find a job as an assistant store manager

Perhaps it's no surprise that many employees are eager to smooth things over with an excuse -- however bizarre. One in three employers have fired someone for tardiness, while 48 percent say they expect employees to be on time every day. Attendance policies can be a topic of contention; Whole Foods was recently criticized for allegedly firing a single mother who couldn't find someone to care for her son when schools closed.

Still, policies vary from one employer to the next. Thirty-four percent say they allow their employees to be late once in a while, as long as their tardiness doesn't become a recurring issue. And some employers take more of a hands-off approach, with 18 percent saying they don't care if employees show up late as long as their work doesn't suffer (and the work shows up on time).

"Most employers understand that occasionally things pop up and cause employees to be behind schedule. The trouble comes when tardiness becomes a habit," says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of Human Resources. Haefner advises frequently late employees to consider setting up alerts about public transportation, or checking the weather forecast for their commute.

> Find a job as a delivery driver

With 39 percent of tardy employees blaming bad traffic conditions (and another 7 percent blaming the weather), this might not be such a terrible idea. Lack of sleep was also a popular reason for lateness (19 percent), and 8 percent cited delays caused by public transportation. Finally, 6 percent said their lateness resulted from dropping their kids off at school or daycare.

Whatever the case, don't tell your boss you're late because you stopped to deliver a stranger's baby on the side of the highway. That only works if you're an obstetrician.

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We had an employee not come in one day because her "psychic" told her it was a bad day to travel outside the home. She got to go visit the un-employment office.

February 20 2014 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Lady who thought Haloween was a non-work holiday should be fired for sheer stupidity

February 20 2014 at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul C. Duncan

One of the weirdest ones I know of (& turned out true) A mechanic was late to work because he had to get a cab because a squirrel had eaten the wiring under the hood of his truck. We all laughed it off until... he had it flatbedded in & we saw the damaged wiring. It is amazing what one squirrel can do overnight.

February 20 2014 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary M. Revis

I know this is about lame late for work/ can't come in excuses but I have to say this. I was just told by a friend of mine, about the inner workings of Home Depot. The one she works at is a nice store and in general (for the consumers) fairly decent to shop at. BUT, the front end employees (cashiers) are given award badges and pins as incentives for good work and high customer service. She had customers emailing in or calling, to say how well she took care of their shopping/check out needs. She was good at her job. When an employee has that happen, their name is place in a hat for a vote for an award badge She had been there 2 months. A male employee was hired 1 month after her and it was during the Holidays and during all this wild snow and frigid weather, that the male employee won and award after being there only 4 weeks. HOW did that happen?? Well the Front end supervisor told her that, the male employee would not let her go out to the parking lot for carts, while the snow was blowing sides. By the way, there were parking lot loaders, who's job it is to get the carts. One other employee got an award simply by helping ANOTHER employee start their car? Come on! nice things like this are wonderful but to place an award on it..not right at all! Some things are part of the job. Getting carts from the lot while it rains or snows is part of the job at times..and nothing really to get an award for. Another incident was, my friend asked another female co-worker if they could tie the back of her apron tight..because she was having problems getting it tied. The Front end supervisor told her, never to ask anyone to do that again, because some aren't "touchy feely" people and it makes them uncomfortable. Granted there is some truth to that, but later that evening shift, the Front end supervisor was hugging the SAME male employee who got an award for not letting her be out in the snow!.It was bad for moral and my friend did leave the job. She was never late, on time, picked up extra shifts when asked to as well. There were cliques and favorites and it was wrong. Home Depot also have something called Occurrences. If you are late or call out for ANY reason other than your own death? they mark that on your attendance. Mother dies? too bad it's a mark, husband killed? too bad they mark it. But, the mark goes away if you don't have any others within a 6 month time of the mark. I helped my friend get hired at a place, that will truly appreciate her skills and work. So sad that this particular Home Depot was nasty to work for. Since getting hired at the new job? my friend is getting good praises and was asked into the office by the Director, to have kudos said to her as well LOL. She's a good person and a really great employee. Home Depot's LOSS.

February 20 2014 at 1:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

That's why you leave your house early, that way, if there's bad traffic or something, you won't be late. I'd rather sit out in my car and wait for clock in time than be late. Of course things happen that you can't help, like flat tires, but some people just procrastinate.

February 20 2014 at 12:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I had an employee who came in more than 1/2 an hour late. I asked him why he was late and he said, "I got new shoes that hurt my feet so I had to walk very slowly." Turns out he had huge blisters so I sent him to medical for treatment and told him to wear his old shoes.

February 20 2014 at 11:25 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

When I was working as a flight attendant, one of my coworkers called in a bomb scare so the flight would either be delayed or cancelled . She just did not want to come to work that day!! Needless to say, we saw the last of her at that company.

February 20 2014 at 9:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sixtootie38's comment

Doesn't surprise me. If some people had any brains, they'd take them out and play with them.

February 20 2014 at 12:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I'm 57 and have only been late 3 times in my entire life. 4 if you count the time I was late but turned out I wasn't scheduled to work anyway (the manager had forgotten to tell me of the schedule change).
While it does happen sometimes, there's no excuse for being late on a regular basis.

February 20 2014 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I`m over 60 now, and way back when, at 14 years old, I took my first real full time job. I`ve been at it ever since, but now being semi-retired, I only work the summer season. The only excuse I had ever used [twice I did it in my 20s] for being late......... [ By the way, I owned my company at 21, and had 3 employees at the time] Was sorry guys, but I was getting laid. For some reason they understood.

February 20 2014 at 7:03 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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