Employees' Most Outrageous 'Late' Excuses

When it comes to excuses for being late for work, a new study shows American employees are very creative.

While traffic and lack of sleep top the CareerBuilder survey of employees' tardiness explanations, a wide range of more unusual excuses — from a cat having the hiccups to thinking they might have won the lottery — also cropped up among the nation's workers when they failed to show up on time.

The creativity may be necessary given the number of times such excuses are needed: Overall, 16 percent of employees arrive late to work once a week or more, the study revealed. Nearly 30 percent come in late at least once a month.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, cautions against such behavior.

"Punctuality — or lack thereof — can impact how your commitment, reliability and performance are perceived by your employer," she said.

And regularly showing up late can come with serious consequences. More than one-third of the employers surveyed have fired a staff member for not being at work on time.

The most common excuses for being late for work incorporated traffic issues, lack of sleep, bad weather, problems getting kids to school, transportation delays, spouses, pets and watching television.

Some of the more outrageous justifications reported by the employers included:

  • Employee's cat had the hiccups.
  • Employee got distracted watching the "Today" show.
  • Employee thought she had won the lottery (she hadn't).
  • Employee's angry roommate cut the cord to his phone charger, so it didn't charge and his alarm didn't go off.
  • Employee believed his commute time should count toward his work hours.
  • Employee claimed a fox stole her car keys.
  • Employee's leg was trapped between a subway car and the platform (turned out to be true).
  • Employee said he wasn't late because he had no intention of getting to work before 9 a.m. (his start time was 8 a.m.)
  • Employee was late because of a job interview with another firm.
  • Employee had to take a personal call from the state governor (turned out to be true).

The study was based on surveys of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals and 7,780 U.S. workers.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter before working in public relations. You can follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.