What's the funniest excuse you've ever heard?

I'm sure that you've heard some really flimsy excuses from employees for doing something wrong or missing work. I'm looking for funny but true stories about excuses that are amazingly lame, ridiculous, or unbelievable. I want one I can use in HR Hero Extra, which is a supplement to our Employment Law Letters.

Please post your funniest war story here -- flimsy excuses or anything else that happened at work. If I use your story in HR Hero Extra, I'll send you an HR Hero goody bag. It's an HR Hero tote bag containing a denim HR Hero shirt, an HR Hero T-shirt, and an HR Hero baseball cap.

Please -- only post stories that you know are true. For example, you heard it directly from the employee or his supervisor. If I use your story, I'll contact you at the e-mail address you gave when you signed up for this forum.

Thanks for your help. This should be fun.

James Sokolowski
Senior Editor
M. Lee Smith Publishers



  • 71 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Here's mine - True story (also lame). Three years ago during a random drug screen a maintenance employee tested positive for marijuana. It was a non-D.O.T. and didn't require that we go through an MRO (medical review officer), so the task fell to me to talk to the ee and eventually terminate him for violation of our drug/alcohol abuse policy. Anyway, I called him in to my office, closed the door and asked him to have a seat. He immediately said, "I knew it, I knew it! That test said I was smoking dope didn't it?" I told him yes, the results were positive. He replied, "I knew it! But, I ain't never so much as took a drag myself. I play on two league softball teams. Sunday a week ago we switched dugouts at the end of the fourth inning and I know for a fact everybody on the other team was smoking weed, you could see it coming out around the ends of the dugout. Well, we changed benches and I was coughing, and I'm alergic anyway, and all I can tell you is I must have got a lot of it into my system second hand. I swear I ain't never personally smoked it."
  • I have a copy of an actual written warning that I keep on my wall that was given to an employee for being 25 minutes late to his dish washing shift. His excuse: "I dreamed I was already there."

    Poor guy. Not only was he dreaming about washing dishes but he got written up for being late.


  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 05-02-02 AT 03:55PM (CST)[/font][p]While I don't have a particular incident, your post reminded me of the great fictional explanation, as told by Gerard Hoffnung, a British musicologist and humorist in the 1950's, by a brick-layer for his requesting a leave from his employer. Anyone familiar with the tale wouldn't think twice about seeing unusual, real explanations for time off requests.

  • This actually happened. A new employee(for a full time position) reported for work his first day. He completed his shift and we never heard from him again until he stopped on Friday of the second week for his paycheck. I handed him his check and a termination directive for no call/no show because we hadn't seen him since his first day. He responded by becoming very indignant and telling me how unfair he thought we were since "we" hadn't "called" him to say we had work for him each day.
  • Here are my two.

    Female employee fails pre-employment drug screen. Tests positive for cocaine. Tells me that she has never used cocaine, but that her boyfriend is a cocaine addict. Sort of like Ozzie Osborne meets June Cleaver. She then shares with me that she had sex with him the night before the test, so that's why she tested positive.

    I'm sure this employee told me the truth but it's so weird that I thought I'd share it. We had a monthly conference call with all 26 of our branch locations. The Branch Manager in our Ankorage, Alaska branch missed the call. He called me later to apologize and told me he missed the call because when he went to leave his house to drive to the branch for the call, he opened his door and found a moose standing on his porch. Moose will can tear your house down if it's wooden and the moose gets mad enough or excited enough. He told me that he was trapped in his house for an hour until the moose finally left his front porch and wandered away. I told him that I believed him (which I did), but that even if he was telling a lie, it was such a great lie, I'd excuse him on originality alone!

    Margaret Morford
  • Margaret,
    Please believe the moose story. I used to live in Anchorage. If the moose are in town it is because they are hungry. A hungry moose (1,600# with lethal hooves) can be an ornery animal. They have been known to attack people & cars and do a lot of damage.
  • Ruthanne,

    I did believe the guy. He had never missed a conference call before and was honest as the day is long. However, because I'm sitting in Nashville, Tennessee, it was the most unusual story I'd ever heard!

    Margaret Morford
  • Hatchetman, I don't know that story. What is it?

    James Sokolowski
    Senior Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers
  • One of our employees at a former job called in that he was going to be late for work that day. It seems as he was leaving his house to go to work about 4:30 a.m. he found his dog had been hit by a car and was lying dead in the ditch. It was raining and just one of those typical miserable winter days. After waking his wife and collecting the dog they proceeded to bury the dog in their yard and spend some time grieving. The employee the came in to work and received a phone call from his wife that their dog had shown up at the door wanting in the house. It seems that the dog that they buried had been a neighbors dog that had been hit and killed, but that because of the darkness and rain they couldn't tell the difference.
  • We have a very carefully detailed drug & alcohol policy for the workplace. A witness had seen one of our kitchen employees sneaking into the dry storage room to drink. Our policy states that if there is a reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence while at work, he/she will be asked to submit to a test for the presence of alcohol. So, the Mandager on Duty is in the process of driving the employee in question over to the test site, and while in the car together, the employee is on his cell phone calling his buddies to try and find one who is willing to take the test for him! The manager, who is driving the car, can't believe his ears! Finally, the employee is unsuccessful at finding a substitute testee, so he refuses to take the test. This is grounds for dismissal under our policy, so the employee was let go. Believe it or not, the employee filed for unemployment compensation, and this got all the way to an appeal hearing before the referee decided in our favor.
  • Dottie: Be careful about calling them 'testees'. They're examinees. HR people have fun too on Friday!
  • I actually have two -
    1. We had a position that required a drug test after a contingent offer was extended. We always warned candidates that the position they were interviewing for required a drug test if we made them an offer, then when we made the offer, the candidate was once again reminded that if they accepted the offer they would have to take a drug test. So one day I make an offer to a guy and he accepts and I schedule him for the drug test. Don't you know, it comes back positive. I call up the guy and let him know that he tested positive. He says, "There's this product at GNC that will clean my system out so that I can retake the test and pass. I'll go buy it now if you'll let me try again."

    2. I had a man come in for an interview for a temp position. I noticed that he had a significant gap in employment. I said, "So, can you tell me what you were up to between 1995 and 1997?" He said, "Just chillin'" A few months later another man comes in with a significant employment gap. I say, "So, can you tell me what you were doing between 1996 and 1998?" He says, "Just chillin'" I sat back and laughed and said, "We seem to be getting a lot of that lately. How exactly would you define 'just chillin'?"
  • We had an employee who had been through our disciplinary process for attendance problems. He was absent again and was now facing suspension. When I was going over this with him, he became very agitated and started yelling "This is not fair....THIS time I was REALLY sick!

  • An applicant whe came in last year claimed that he couldn't list his previous employer, because it was a "very secrit goverment agencie" that we probably haven't even heard of. That was my favorite.

    I had a pregnant employee who asked if she could take a week or two off without it counting as maternity/pregnancy leave. I asked her to supply a doctor's excuse for consideration, and she did - from a dermatologist. Her excuse was that her pregancy was causing her to break out in acne, and she was too embarrassed to be seen in public.

    I often get a kick our of the reasons people claim to have left their previous jobs. It's amazing how some people have such bad luck that every former boss they've had has been a jerk (or worse). I also had a 19-year-old applicant who said she left her three previous jobs because in each instance her supervisor thought she was having an affair with the supervisor's boyfriend or husband - including the job at Hardee's where the supervisor was a gay male.
  • I had an employee call on the last day of a two week vacation requesting a six month leave of absence. Upon requesting the reason she replies, I started a new job two weeks ago and I want you to hold my position in case I don't like it or it doesn't work out.
  • Wow! These are some hilarious stories. Thanks, everyone. Keep 'em coming, if you haven't sent one yet -- we always can use a good laugh.

    James Sokolowski
    Senior Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers

  • I've already submitted and I don't intend for this one to count, but, I just got back from an unemployment appeals hearing, just an hour ago. The claimant was terminated for violation of our attendance policy and all my evidence lined up to a 'T'. Then she hands the referee a stack of hospital bills and medication precaution statements and the like to establish that she's sickly and takes lots of medication. He's going down my list of absences with her and comes to my entry "February 11, 2002, tardy, 1/2 point". He asks her if she recalls why she was tardy on that particular date. She says, "Yes, I went by the Drs. office on the way to work because I had a B.M. in my clothes on my way to work and, yes, I took it to Human Resources." (Swear to goodness!) I was hoping the referee would move on (no pun intended) when he asked, "You took WHAT to Human Resources?" She says, "The Drs. slip, the Drs. Slip". Whew!
  • I had a 3rd shift employee who was a no call, no show one day. The next day he came to work and told his supervisor that the reason that he missed work and did not call was because he had gotten a home perm the evening before and his head was burned and hurt too much to do anything. Needless to say, he did not last long...
  • I have a couple of funny stories.

    The first happened during an interview. I had a candidate interviewing for a production position. One of the questions I asked him was about his future goals, where he saw himself in the next 5 to 10 years, etc. His reply was, "I'd like to have your job hon!" Then he said, "oh, that wasn't very smart. I probably won't get the job now, huh?" Needless to say, he didn't.

    The second story comes from an employee who was always making excuses. We had a random drug test and his name came up. He kept saying he couldn't go, he couldn't go, so he was escorted down to the clinic to be tested there. Lo and behold he came up positive. His excuse was that somebody spiked his cake. He was referred to the EAP (we give our employees one chance with a mandatory referral to the EAP, a work continuation agreement etc. - they are non-DOT employees). After the EAP assessment, he needed to have another drug test done before he could come back to work and it had to be negative. The day he was to go down and have this done, our Director of Sales came over and asked me about an email he had received. It was a receipt for purchasing a kit to beat a drug test. It had the name of the product, the employee's name and address that it was shipped to, the date it was ordered and sent, etc. For some reason, it was accidentally emailed to our corporate email address (which goes to our Sales Director) instead of his own! When confronted with it, his excuse was that he bought it for a friend who didn't have a credit card.

    Unfortunately, for reasons I won't go into, he was not terminated at that point. Later, after he came back to work, his name came up for another random test. We are a secure facility with a guard and gate at the entrance. When this employee arrived at work that morning and saw the guard coming out to hand him his notice that he was selected, he made a U-turn and left. He never called in and was gone for the next two days. When his boss finally got ahold of him, he told his boss that he never showed up at the gate, it must have been his girlfriend who was borrowing his truck and that he was home in bed because he hurt his hand working on her car over the weekend.

    He is now no longer employed with us.
  • We have a 24 hour operation and one employee had a hard time coming in on Saturday morning. He was late repeatedly. He would be late and the on duty worker would have to stay over. We warned him and went through all progressive discipline. He did it again and was brought into my office. We were ready to discharge. Here is his excuse:
    1. I was sick and could not come to work.
    2. My phone was out of order so I could not call in.
    3. I was too sick to drive over to the store to a pay phone
    4. My wife has no drivers license so she could not drive and call for
    5. As soon as I got to feeling good enough to get out of bed, I drove
    to a pay phone and called in.

    I was so impressed/amused by this excuse that I gave the employee one more chance. He straightened up and has stayed out of trouble since.
  • I had an applicant for an opening in our Housekeeping department. She had prior experience, and really really needed to work. When asked when she could start she replied, "I don't know", "I have to go to the doctor to have a cockroach taken out of my ear".

    But the one I enjoyed the most....
    An employee called in on Memorial Day weekend, he had a bad cold and ear infection and just couldn't come in at all that weekend.

    Well that weekend, I went out of town to the beach and who do you suppose I was standing behind at the Tiki Hut? When he turned around with his drinks, he walked right into me. He smiled, greeted me and walk on past...he was about 10 feet away before he realized who he'd smiled at. I've never seen anyone get sick so fast in my life, the poor kid actually turned green.
  • After interviewing a candidate I told him a bout our benefits. He was a little arrogant and ask me if we provide a car for him. I told him, How about a corvete? He told me, "That will be great". I told him too bad we don't have that here.
  • Thank you to everyone who submitted their hilarious excuses from employees. I busted a gut laughing. (Workers' comp!)

    Congratulations to Paul in Cannon Beach for submitting the funniest excuse. He had an employee who explained that he was late for his dishwashing shift because "I dreamed I was already there."

    Paul wins our HR Hero goody bag -- an HR Hero tote bag containing a denim HR Hero shirt, an HR Hero T-shirt, and an HR Hero baseball cap. And we'll put his story in the HR-de-HaR-HaR feature in the June HR Hero Extra, which is a supplement to our Employment Law Letters.

    Thanks to everyone for making the Employers Forum so great.

    James Sokolowski
    Senior Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers

  • An employee came bursting into my office about noon one day and said he had to leave immediately to get his dog neutered because the dog thought he (the dog) was a cat and was trying to get it on with all the cats in the neighborhood.
  • My timing is still up to par.
  • Ulp . . . my own???

    I went home for lunch and discovered a male Chickadee flying around my living room. My cats had returned from their morning jaunts (through their cat window) and were fast asleep on the bed. Since I really didn't want to come home that evening to furniture-carpet-etc. full of bird droppings, I herded the bird out of the house before returning to work. When I finally returned to work (YOU try chasing a bird out of your house!), I walked down the hall to my office to a lot of laughter and smart-aleck comments -- this wan't the first time this had happened. My cats have created their own unique version of catch-and-release!

  • I would be very suspect of anybody who claims to be able to tell the sex of an in-flight chickadee or any other winged creature! by the way, I think the originator of this thread (is that what they're called) should send every responder a T-shirt just for morale or whatever.
  • Don D, I'd love to send everyone a T-shirt, but my grandmother just died again and I have to go take care of her chickadee ranch. The bull chickadees keep jumping the fence, and the people next door have cats ... and did I mention (cough) that I'm sick?

    James Sokolowski
    Senior Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers
  • Thanks anyway! We're still waiting to hear the lady explain her talent for determining mid-flight bird sex.
  • Don D -

    Just to take your mind off the issue - if chickadees are like most species of birds, typically the males are more colorful than the females. Nature did this so that the males could distract predators away from the nesting females. Therefore - visually it should be quite easy to tell the male from the female.
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