Silver Fox over at Looking for Detachment posted about a newly found blog, Accidental Remediation. Short Geologist's posts are primarily about working in the HTRW investigation and remediation arena, a field I left about 10 or so years ago.
One of her posts talks about the "indentured servitude" of entry-level geologists (aka field grunts). This type of activity on the part of consulting firms was certainly a portion of why I left that field of work.
I had friends who worked for firms that would charge their clients for overtime worked, but not pay their employees for that overtime. They were on salary, right? I myself worked for a firm that had me work 5 months' worth of hours in 3 (I was working about 12-15/7) - unpaid overtime - and got a lovely $500 bonus that year. Other folks in my firm and other firms in the area were similarly overworked. I had one friend who got herself hooked on ritalin to accomplish the senior project manager work that she needed to get done (more 15/7). I've heard of firms that had a very "enhanced" (aka stimulant-laden) atmosphere to produce results from their junior and senior project managers. Not all engineering/geology firms are this way, of course. There are a lot of very good firms out there who treat their employees well and understand the relationship between sound product/reputation.
Regardless, about 10 years ago I decided it was nuts and changed fields within the environmental industry. Luckily, I had the background that helped me accomplish this transition. The consulting in my arena, wetland delineation, is much more sane and not as subject to that type of servitude. It's harder to get crappy work by the state and federal agencies as they generally need to field-verify the work firms are doing, which is highly visible and mostly above ground (except for those hydric soil indicators). Projects tend to be smaller, and when large, the clients tend to be savvy enough to understand that good data is necessary.
That said, the quote about consulting I continually tell people is "Good, fast, and cheap; pick any two. You can't have it all." And it's true.