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The Year’s Most Outrageous ‘Late for Work’ Excuses, Rated

late for workIf there’s one thing you need to take away from CareerBuilder’s most recent study, it’s this: Sometimes, when an employee says a wild animal made him late, you need to give him the benefit of the doubt. For its most recent survey, CareerBuilder asked employers to share the most common – and the most outrageous – “late for work” excuses they’ve heard this year.

While most employees will blame their tardiness on traffic (39 percent), a lack of sleep is what slows down 19 percent most days. Problems with public transportation, bad weather and dropping the kids off at school were other common excuses.

Excusable? Rating the most outrageous “late for work” excuses

And then of course…there are the not-so-common excuses. When asked to share some of the more memorable “late for work” excuses employees gave this year, employers didn’t hold back. Below are the top 12 most outrageous excuses, rated on their “excusability” from 1 (most excusable) to 5 (least excusable):

  1. Employee claimed a zebra was running down the highway and held up traffic. (Excusability rating: 1. This actually turned out to be true.)
  2. Employee woke up on the front lawn of a house two blocks away from his home. (Excusability rating: 4. His neighbor’s couldn’t wake him up? Rude!)
  3. Employee’s cat got stuck in the toilet. (Excusability rating: 3. It happens…Doesn’t it?)
  4. Employee ran out of milk for his cereal and had to buy some before getting ready for work. (Excusability rating: 2. Vitamin D is super important, y’all.)
  5. Employee was late to work because he fell asleep in the car when he got to work. (Excusability rating: 3. Technically, he was at work on time, so…)
  6. Employee accidentally put superglue in her eye instead of contact lens solution and had to go to the emergency room. (Excusability rating: 1. Because ouch.)
  7. Employee thought Halloween was a work holiday. (Excusability rating: 4. Also, why would you miss the chance to scare your co-workers?)
  8. Employee said a hole in the roof caused rain to fall on the alarm clock and it didn’t go off. (Excusability rating: 5. That excuse didn’t work in college, and it doesn’t work now.)
  9. Employee forgot that the company had changed locations. (Excusability rating: 5. That’s not a thing.)
  10. Employee got a hairbrush stuck in her hair. (Excusability rating: 4. Why do you even own a hairbrush? Learn from Gisele.)
  11. Employee was scared by a nightmare. (Excusability rating: 5. What are we, eight years old?)
  12. Employee was watching something on TV and really wanted to see the end. (Excusability rating: Meh. Depends on the show.)

How common is tardiness in the workplace?

The survey of more than 3,000 workers and 2,000 employers nationwide also looked at how common tardiness is in the workplace – and some of the repercussions. Nearly one quarter (23 percent) of employees say they are tardy at least once a month, and 15 percent admit they arrive late on a weekly basis.

Though 34 percent of employers tolerate a little tardiness, 48 percent expect employees to be on time every day, and 35 percent have even fired an employee for tardiness. Meanwhile, 18 percent of companies say they don’t care how their employees manage their time so long that they get their work done well.

While it’s easy to assume that tardiness leads to lost productivity, employers may want to consider being a little more flexible with employees – particularly if retention is a problem: Research shows that the vast majority of workers want to work for companies that offer flexibility and provide a good work/life balance.

Tell us in the comments below: What are some of the most outrageous late excuses you’ve ever heard? How relaxed is your organizations tardiness policy?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.


  1. […] 5. The Year’s Most Outrageous “Late for Work” Excuses, Rated […]

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