Workers Use Sick Days for Rest, Shopping

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For some, life gets so hectic during the holidays that it's tempting to call in sick to work and take it easy for a day, or finish the shopping. A recent Harris poll shows that nearly one-in-three workers admitted to calling in sick during the past year when they actually felt fine. Deborah Amos speaks with's Richard Castellini. His company commissioned the poll.


On Wednesdays, we focus on the workplace. And today, one of its worst kept secrets - employees calling in sick when they're not really sick. A recent poll finds nearly a third of U.S. workers have done it once in the last year. And 10 percent have done it at least three times. commissioned the poll, and with us from our Chicago bureau now is Richard Castellini, a CareerBuilder vice president. Good morning.

Mr. RICHARD CASTELLINI (Vice President, CareerBuilder): Good morning.

AMOS: So this time of year with the holidays, it must be particularly alluring for those considering a not really sick day.

Mr. CASTELLINI: Yeah. We find that workers tend to take sick days more often around the holidays for a couple of reasons. Hey, there's much more external pressures, whether it be shopping, or just getting prepared for the holidays, and very often at this time of the year the vacation days have run out, and all they have really left to use for paid time off is sick days.

AMOS: What's the most popular reason for people calling in sick when they're not really sick?

Mr. CASTELLINI: Frankly, the most popular is just to relax. People view their sick days as another part of the extension of their vacation days, and they use them as such. You know, half the people say they want to relax, and about 20 -15 to 20 percent say they use it to do errands, use it to visit with family and friends. So there's a multitude of reasons, but all in all people are not using them when they're sick.

AMOS: What, for purposes of research only, are some of the best excuses that you've heard in this poll?

Mr. CASTELLINI: Well, we always get, you know, a bumper crop of just bad excuses. You know, some of this year's included my mother was in jail, I was poisoned by my mother-in-law, my horse got loose and I had to find it. And then this one, I actually don't know if it is made up, but someone claimed, they said that they had sneezed and they threw out their back, and that it happened to a Chicago baseball player a couple of years ago.

AMOS: Now, I know that you spoke to managers in this poll. What happens when a manager finds out that one of their workers actually was seen at a ball game, or seen at the mall, or getting over a hangover?

Mr. CASTELLINI: Well, it puts them in a difficult position. You know, there was a trust factor. You know, obviously, that manager looks foolish because they had taken their employee's word, and work at the workplace had to suffer when that person wasn't contributing at the level that they expected to. So that's why you get into these situations where managers look very much down upon this, and you'll see people being fired because of it. But some companies in some places view this as, you know, it's one of this wink, wink, nod, nod things that people just know that happen in the workplace.

AMOS: Richard Castellini is with

INSKEEP: I'm not feeling so well this morning.

AMOS: Nice try.

INSKEEP: Ah, go right on.

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