The spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) is a conserved mitotic regulator that preserves genome stability by monitoring kinetochore-microtubule attachments and blocking anaphase onset until chromosome biorientation is achieved. Despite its central role in maintaining mitotic fidelity, the ability of the SAC to delay mitotic exit in the presence of kinetochore-microtubule attachment defects (SAC "strength") appears to vary widely. How different cellular aspects drive this variation remains largely unknown. Here we show that SAC strength is correlated with cell fate during development of Caenorhabditis elegans embryos, with germline-fated cells experiencing longer mitotic delays upon spindle perturbation than somatic cells. These differences are entirely dependent on an intact checkpoint and only partially attributable to differences in cell size. In two-cell embryos, cell size accounts for half of the difference in SAC strength between the larger somatic AB and the smaller germline P1 blastomeres. The remaining difference requires asymmetric cytoplasmic partitioning downstream of PAR polarity proteins, suggesting that checkpoint-regulating factors are distributed asymmetrically during early germ cell divisions. Our results indicate that SAC activity is linked to cell fate and reveal a hitherto unknown interaction between asymmetric cell division and the SAC.