And yet while food poisoning is hardly an unbelievable problem to have—the US Centers for Disease Control estimates that 48 million Americans come down with a foodborne illness each year—it has a certain reputation as the “dog ate my homework” of workplace excuses.

There are several reasons people tend to fall back on food poisoning as an explanation:

They will, however, suspect you are lying.

The deeper problem with the food-poisoning excuse

Beyond the fact that people will know food poisoning is a cover story, there’s a deeper problem with the ubiquity of the excuse: It’s indicative of the fact that many employees still feel as if they need to convince their bosses that they’re projectile-vomiting like the kid in The Exorcist in order to get the occasional day off.

As Chicago advertising executive Ian Sohn recently wrote on in a viral LinkedIn post, too many workplaces still infantilize their employees, demanding excuses and justifications that imply workers “have to apologize for having lives.”

The reality is that we’re all human beings who will occasionally need to miss work for reasons that go beyond physical illness—but when an office is stingy with vacation or personal days, it effectively puts people in the position of feeling they have to lie to their boss.

Thankfully, some workplaces are changing their policies to acknowledge the wide range of reasons why people might need to miss work, whether that means offering unlimited paid time off or encouraging workers to take mental health days. As for the offices that are still behind the times: If otherwise healthy workers seem to fall prey to contaminated food with shocking regularity, take note. So long as the employees typically are responsible, the problem doesn’t lie with them or with the food they eat, but with a culture that doesn’t trust them to manage their time and get their work done.

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