However, whenever we interview people to come in and work here, certain folks on the interview committee pretty much require the applicant to genuflect to the common "whatever it takes to get the job done" belief that over 40 hours is no big deal and that they do that "all" the time. Even though that is technically completely against the rules for contracting.
Not only against the rules, but it's against the law. There's quite a bit of employment law and case law that most companies basically ignore outright in the US. Example: if your hired as an exempt employee (not OT) for 40 hour weeks but are routinely scheduled/work more than that to the point it becomes your normal work then you're entitled to compensation (I think at OT rates) for it. Exempt is intended to cover occasional extra time - not mandatory extended hours every week.
However very people sue over it due to various (likely illegal) terms in employment agreements, severance packages, etc.
Annoyed at being a perma-temp or long term consultant alongside people getting paid more, bonuses, vacation, and benefits that you don't get? Google co-employment laws. You probably could sue (or threaten to sue) and win all the back benefits you didn't get. But you're also a consultant and your position would be gone the first hint that you might even know those rights exist.
Welcome to abusive corporate america where the shareholder and stock price is far, FAR more important than doing what's legal or moral.