Heard every sick day excuse? Maybe not

November 8, 2011, 4:25 PM UTC

By Anne Fisher, contributor

FORTUNE — Now that summer vacation season is just a memory, and winter cold-and-flu season is looming, it’s a good time to contemplate people’s reasons for calling in to say that they are just not planning to show up.

Of course, no sane manager expects 100% attendance from everybody all the time. Life doesn’t work that way. Have I ever told you about the time I tripped over my dog and had to go to the emergency room to get 17 stitches? No? Well, of course not. Who wants to admit to being unable to navigate a room without tripping over a dog?

And while we’re on this thread, here’s another thing: Who doesn’t take a mental-health day every once in a while? Answer (you know it): A really scary person you would not want to be around. Or work for.

We get it. Really. But there are limits.

Or are there? Job site CareerBuilder recently asked 2,696 human resources managers and 4,384 full-time employees for the “most unusual” reasons for absence that they had heard, seen, or perpetrated. The researchers got some intriguing answers. Here are a few:

The employee:

  • Fell out of bed and broke his nose
  • Caught a cold from a puppy
  • Got sick from eating too much at a party
  • Had to go to the hospital after accidentally drinking antifreeze
  • Hurt his back chasing a beaver
  • Got his toe caught in a vent cover
  • Developed a headache from attending too many garage sales

There is a special category for absentees that were victims of peculiar accidents:

  • Bats got into the employee’s hair.
  • A refrigerator fell on the employee.
  • A bucket filled with water crashed through the ceiling of a bowling alley and hit the employee on the head.
  • A deer bit the employee while he was hunting.
  • While the employee’s hamster was giving birth, she was so sickened by the process that she (the employee, not the hamster) passed out.

If there were a prize, it would have to go to a chef who, in his lucrative job as second-in-command in the kitchen of a prestigious high-volume restaurant, “had pre-existing allergies he chose not to disclose to us,” said the person who hired him.

The fellow was allergic, it turned out, to so many different comestibles that, after all his paid sick days and vacation were used up, he “ultimately was moved to a role where he didn’t touch food.”

Okay. Plenty of chefs don’t touch food (they conceptualize: their minions mince the shallots and deglaze the saucepans), but I still have one niggling question: Who accidentally drinks antifreeze? Could it have been the deer hunter who let the deer get close enough to bite him?

Now, that is a story I would like to hear.


You Can’t Fire Everyone: Have you been given the unenviable task of managing employees who just don’t respond to your requests or are passive aggressive in other ways? How have you handled it? Tell us your stories. Email us at fired@fortune.com. We’ll highlight the most interesting and instructional ones.