June 7, 2024 • By Dennis Beaver

Readers who enjoy classic American films will recognize the headline of this article as a line from “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), starring Humphrey Bogart. A similar remark was used in “Blazing Saddles,” the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy.

When we hear the word “badge,” what usually comes to mind is a police officer, firefighter, or even a merit badge awarded to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts to signify certain accomplishments. (Boy Scouts of America is rebranding to Scouting America in 2025.)

A badge signifies that the person wearing it is a legitimate organization or company employee.

So what are the possible consequences and risks to employees (and their employers) who should have been provided with a badge or other form of identification but were not?


A frequent surprise to first-time real property buyers is the discovery of one or more easements on their land allowing a utility or communications company — cable, internet, or phone — to access, inspect, and perform work on its equipment.

Most utilities have employees who perform these tasks, some hire contractors, and this is where problems can arise.

‘I need to get into your backyard’

Recently, several homeowners came face-to-face with a major utility’s “contractors,” who were hired to inspect the company’s easements in their neighborhood.

Eighty-five-year-old “Sarah” related this exchange with “George”, a polite but embarrassed young man who wanted to examine an easement in our backyard.

Looking at him through my peephole, I could see that he was not wearing a company uniform, had no identification badge, no business cards, and nothing visible to prove his legitimacy. I told him, “‘For all I know, this could be an attempted home invasion. Do you have anything that proves who you are working for and the need to get into our backyard?’”

George produced a one-page sheet from his employer I’ve seen that stated, “I work for (employer), who is an approved contractor for (your utility).” The document explains why George needs access to Sarah’s property. There is a place for the name of a field engineer and a phone number, but that area is blank.

Sarah learned that George is a college student and is part of a crew traveling from city to city, inspecting easements.

“How long have you been working for them?” she asked.

“Three months, and even though I’ve repeatedly asked, they have not provided any form of proper ID, which is creating problems for all of us on the crew.”

My reader then phoned the company, but not wanting to get George in trouble, refused to identify him when the receptionist asked, “Are you having problems with our employee?”

“No, you are the problem!” Sarah replied. “How dare you send your employees without sufficient identification into situations that can be dangerous to them and potentially frighten homeowners?”

Also, I phoned the employer and spoke with a supervisor, who insisted that all of their people had proper ID. I knew that was a lie but, while pressed, did not reveal the employee’s name or precise location. My phone did not reveal my location either.

Proper identification is the standard of care

From police departments to school districts, badges or other forms of visible identification are obligatory in thousands of occupations. In several states, failing to produce identification can result in fines against the employer. In some professions, such as health care, failing to wear a name tag can be considered unprofessional conduct.

For example, according to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing, “Failure to display appropriate insignia to identify the nurse when providing health care to the public is grounds for disciplinary action.”

Liability of employer for injury to employees

Employers have both a moral and legal duty to protect their employees and prevent foreseeable harm while on the job. Making safety a priority isn’t just the right thing to do; it is legally required, and a breach of that duty can result in significant costs in the form of workers’ compensation claims, in addition to a serious and willful charge that can cost an employer thousands of dollars that won’t be covered by insurance.

In my conversation with George’s supervisor, I asked him if his company had thought of the liability it faces by putting these college kids into potentially dangerous situations where someone could get shot.

Or, what if a homeowner suffered a heart attack out of fear? “Did you folks even think of these possibilities?”

“Yes, we have,” he said.


If you fill out certain surveys online or use a particular retirement calculator, you might get a phone call or even be paid an unsolicited visit by a rep wanting to set up a sales appointment.

Any legitimate solicitor should be able to show you a proper ID that also clearly identifies the company they work for.

Years ago, Nancy Reagan, one of our nation’s most appreciated First Ladies, told our kids to “just say no” if they were offered drugs. Her advice still applies to 85-year-old “kids” who can’t see a badge or adequate ID on someone who wants you to open the door. Just say no.

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers,
which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993,
or e-mailed to Lagombeaver1 – at – Gmail.com.