Yes, yes—your company might some day be caught up in a sweeping regulatory enforcement case, some nine-figure settlement over the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or off-label marketing of drugs or lord knows what. It happens.

But so do the basic, block-and-tackle compliance threats far more likely to leave a company fighting a rear-guard action against regulators and plaintiff lawyers. Like, say, wage-and-hour violations.

One recent case highlighted by the Labor Department underlines the risk businesses face. The company in question was Texas-based Hilton Reservations and Customer Care, which operates the call center for Hilton Hotels worldwide. According to an investigation from the ...