Calling in sick

Fired, jailed for five years for calling in sick

Peter Harris|

There have been a couple of stories in the news lately about people landing in increasingly hot water for faking illness in order to get a day or two off work. A man in the Middle East was handed a five year prison sentence for pretending to be sick in order to extend his vacation by a couple of days. Closer to home, a Telus employee was terminated for calling in sick in order to play in a sporting tournament.

Let’s start in Alberta. Jarrod Underwood worked for Telus Communications as a service technician in Fort McMurray. His job was to install and service Telus equipment on location in client’s homes and businesses.

He asked his supervisor for the day off in order to play in a softball tournament. His request was turned down because there were no other technicians available to fill in for him on that day.

So on the morning of the tournament, he instead sent a text message to his boss claiming that he was too sick to come in to work. Remembering the original request for the day off, the supervisor was suspicious of the sick day claim, and so he passed by the softball game where he observed Underwood pitching in the game.

Underwood was fired from his job. His union appealed that decision, and the case wound up in court. The Alberta Court sided with Telus, ruling that because the employee had lied about being sick, his termination was justified.

Losing your job might seem like harsh punishment for faking illness to get a day off work, but it’s actually a slap on the wrist compared to what happened to a 30-year-old Bahraini man last month. He forged a sick note in order to extend his holiday by two extra days. Unfortunately, his manager doubted the veracity of the doctor’s note and double checked with the hospital that purportedly issued it. The hospital confirmed the manager’s suspicions.

The man was charged with fraud and sentenced to five years in jail. The harsh sentence is expected to be overturned on appeal.

The top five reasons people fake a sick day? recently surveyed hundreds of employees to find our why people lie in order to get a day off work when they’re not actually sick. Here’s what they found:

    1. Hangover 27%
    2. Shopping 19%
    3. Utilities appointments 17%
    4. Planned daytime outings 15%
    5. Interviewing for other jobs 12%

The top sectors for calling in sick?

That same survey identified the fields in which workers were most likely to pull a fast one with their boss in order to get an extra day off. The worst offenders?

  • Retail workers 39%
  • Sales and marketing 33%
  • Customer service 28%

And how about those HR professionals who are in charge of your sick days? They’re actually fairly honest. Only 11% of them admitted to faking a sick day.

47% of Workopolis users tell us that they have occasionally called in sick to work when they’re not ill in order to get an extra day off. The most common reason they say is “for appointments that can’t be moved.”

It’s not the day off that bothers employers when workers fake a sick day, it’s the dishonesty. People have lives outside of work, and there are times when you really need a day off. It’s better to explain the situation and negotiate the day off up front rather than pretending to be ill. (Admittedly, Jarrod Underwood from Telus tried this first.) Being caught lying hurts your credibility at work and can sour your working relationship with your employer.

Hey, and if you really want an extra day off, earn it. Most employers respect extra hours worked to bring a project in on time, and offer lieu time off in exchange.

Have you ever faked a sick day? Did you get caught? Please share your experiences with us.

See also: The worst excuses for calling in sick
Flu season 2013: Signs, symptoms and toxic hotspots


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter

Category: Latest News & Advice, Life At Work
  • JJ

    How do you define a sick day? Could one say, ”I really need that day off because it stresses him/her out so mich.” Then it would be a psychological illness than physical illness? Or, does any doctor note justify taking a sick day. I think if one asks his/her doctor to write a note for his/her sick day, the doctor would usually do it but is the person actually ”sick”?
    My previous employer was unreasonable when I requested time off as my manager couldnt really justify why she couldnt let me. My coworker was totally fine to cover my work. I think my manager was playing politics.
    The forced me to use my vacation days for an unexpected compassion leave so when I needed time off for a planned event (international trip) after the leave, my manager said I didnt have enough vacation days so… (even if i wanted to take unpaid leave). My manager was going to give me 3 days off a trip to Asia. Seriously? I dont know if it was me or my manager who had a poor work ethics. Can’t believe a company that’s one of the biggest electronics retail companies in North America would do that. I’m glad I left that company and my current employer is much more reasonable.
    I think as an employee who has good work ethic, he/she does need to consider the company’s position before planning to get time off. However, if the company is unreasonable, it’s not the employee’s problem. Either suck it up or change employer.

  • Roustam

    Putting the person in jail for five years only because he was absent for two days. Darn… I am in big grieve. I believe that those people who did such thing have hatred and big evil grown within their hearts. Ok ok maybe he did lie about his sickness but at least he kept his manager informed whether he would be at job or not. Five years in jail could kill that very person who lied to the manager about his sickness but still kept him informed. There are much more serious acts than lying about two days of sickness and those crimes (example: some robbery and domestic violence) are treated in much more mild way. Please show me the page in constitution and human rights where it was written black in white that lying about two sick days is considered to be a serious crime.