A recent article on Forbes describes the most outlandish reasons for calling in sick that it could find. The article states, “For the last 10 years, job listing site CareerBuilder has put out a list it calls ‘The Most Unbelievable Excuses for Calling in Sick.’ … Nearly one in five employers (18%) says they have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse.”
I completely get firing an employee for bad excuses. In one of my previous jobs, I inherited an employee who had gotten very used to doing what he wanted when he wanted if he wanted, including showing up for work. One of his favorite excuses was that his old car wouldn’t start. That is a legitimate excuse, and any of us who have owned a car, especially an older model car, have been there. However, this employee lived on a bus route that would have taken him 15 minutes to get to work when combined with walking about four blocks. It wasn’t that he’d be late while he put the car in the shop: He just flat out wouldn’t show. In contrast, when my only car died, I hitched a ride with a neighbor to her work, walked a mile, and then took two busses to get to the office. My car being in the shop wasn’t enough to stop me from going in.
However, three of the ten excuses on the Forbes list seem legitimate to me. That either shows that my perspective on life is very different than others' or that this list is really weak. So my responses to these three reasons for absences are as follows.
“3. I was sitting in the bathroom and my feet and legs fell asleep. When I stood up, I fell and broke my ankle.”
Um, yeah. Been there, done that, sort of. Three years ago, I was talking with my ex-husband about an intense topic. While I was sitting in a hard kitchen chair, I had my leg tucked under me as I often do. When we finished talking, I realized my foot was asleep. I stood up and tried to put pressure on it to wake it up. As I stood up, my foot gave way, twisting my ankle. I collapsed onto the hardwood floors, landing with my body on top of my left foot. I knew immediately I had done damage and was at my chiropractor’s office within an hour. Mercifully, I only caused a bad sprain, but it took about a month of adjustments before it got somewhat back to normal. Had I landed slightly differently, I am sure I could have broken a bone. This reason seems plausible to me.
“8. I had a gall stone I wanted to heal holistically.”
This definitely is a legitimate reason for absence, and the fact it’s included on this list mainly reflects a prejudice in our society against natural healing. Gall stones are incredibly painful as anyone who has had them or witnessed someone with them can tell you. They can make one sick enough to need to skip work; they often land people in the emergency room, though aside from surgery, Western medicine doesn’t offer a lot of help with the gall stones. Thus, natural medicine is the only real option if one can’t or won’t have surgery. There are various holistic ways to go about dealing with gallstones, and some of them involve a lot of bathroom time. One definitely wouldn’t want to leave home. This reason is completely plausible, and it’s one that might cut down on future absences of the employee.
“9. I caught my uniform on fire by putting it in the microwave to dry.”
While this does reflect a certain level of ignorance in the employee, it’s also realistic. When I worked at a fast food restaurant, we were only given one uniform. Eventually after I had been there for quite a while I was able to get a second. However, having only one uniform meant that employees had to wash our uniforms nightly because they reeked of grease after only one shift. If one doesn’t have laundry machines that they own, then one is having to either hand wash the uniform or pay for using a washer daily which adds up. Line drying is a way to save money when you are making minimum wage. However, if you work an afternoon shift, go out, and get home late, your uniform may not be able to dry overnight before you need to be back early in the morning. Out of desperation, an employee could resort to drastic measures to try and dry it.
I’ve also had situations where I’ve spilled food or leaked breastmilk on clothes right before I needed to go somewhere. If that is the only outfit you can wear to the place you are going (such as a work uniform), then you must quickly try to get it cleaned and dried in order to go. This could also result in an act of desperation of shoving an outfit in a microwave to dry.
When I was in growing up, my mother used to do a lot of crafty stuff. One of the things she would make was pinecone wreaths. To prepare the pinecones, one puts them on low heat in the oven in order to kill any creatures that might be growing in them. One day, she decided to microwave the pinecones instead. The result was that the pinecones caught on fire and in turn caught the microwave on fire. The lesson I learned at a very young age is that you don’t put anything but food in the microwave, and even then, you keep an eye on it!
So the possibility of an employee catching a uniform on fire in the microwave is realistic. Having more than one uniform would help solve this problem, but many fast food employers are unfortunately not willing to spend that extra money on their employees.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance